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Friday, April 01, 2005
Symbian, Microsoft Partner in Smartphone OS Space

Symbian and Microsoft put their swords down and gloves away this week, agreeing to a partnership in the smartphone operating system (OS) space.

Following a February licensing deal by Symbian-backer Nokia for Microsoft's music player on Nokia handsets, Symbian has licensed Microsoft Exchange Server ActiveSync protocol for use in its OS, the leading open standard operating system for advanced mobile phones.

Under the terms of the agreement, Symbian will develop an Exchange Server ActiveSync protocol -- plug-in -- for the Symbian OS messaging architecture to allow licensees to include in their Symbian OS-based phones direct over-the-air synchronization capabilities for e-mail, calendar, contacts and other personal information management (PIM) data supported by Microsoft Exchange Server 2003.

The move doesn't just take a step toward ending the rivalry between the two leading cellular OS providers, but also gives Symbian a better crack at the enterprise user market and the North America market ? two segments Symbian pales in in comparison to Microsoft.

"Symbian realizes that much of the world -- especially the U.S. market -- is tied into Outlook and Microsoft Exchange servers," said In-stat Senior Analyst Neil Strother. "If they are going to offer this as an enterprise-class product, it has to be able to work with that."

According to Strother, smartphones shipped 19.5 million units last year, 14.4 million of which carried the Symbian OS.

On the side of the Redmond Giant, the deal brings Microsoft ? other than the obviously licensing fees, specifics of which were not disclosed ? "a little more of a recognition that they are a player in the mobile e-mail space," said the analyst.

"By licensing the ActiveSync protocol and opening up this capability to Symbian OS licensees, Symbian and Microsoft together are significantly expanding the number of customers who can directly access their corporate email and PIM data from wireless devices," said Dave Thompson, corporate VP of the Exchange server product group at Microsoft, in a statement. "Our goal, as evidenced by this agreement and licensing of our intellectual property, is to enhance end-user productivity and drive innovation in the mobile industry with an easy to implement, wireless email solution designed to lower IT costs."

Symbian will make the Exchange Server ActiveSync protocol plug-in available to all Symbian OS licensees which, when coupled with a separate standard distribution agreement with Microsoft, allow the licensees, at their discretion, to implement direct synchronization capabilities with Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 in their selected Symbian OS products, the company said.

Symbian also supports e-mail and PIM synchronization protocols from the likes of Research in Motion, better known as RIM and the creators of BlackBerry Connect; and the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) Data Synchronization protocol.

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