became on Wednesday one of the increasing number of companies to jump on the
wireless bandwagon. Good news for those companies involved in Symbian, bad news for competitors
Symbian is developing wireless platforms based on
EPOC operating system. The company is owned by
as well as
Sony said that it would license Symbian's software platform and
programmable digital signal processor for its next generation of wireless phones. In return, Symbian will license Sony's Memory Stick technology, which Sony is attempting to establish as the standard for memory storage for mobile devices.
Such a high profile customer inevitably boosted the shares of Psion, which rose 412.00 pence, or 14.6%, to
All this is music to the ears of investors in the Symbian companies, but not perhaps to those involved with Palm and Microsoft. In New York, Palm was lately down 1, or 3%, to 28 1/8, while Microsoft was lately down 11/16, or 1%, to 68 11/16. This deal with Sony represents the second licensee for Symbian with a company that isn't among the Symbian shareholder circle. The first was
, which also licenses
, Microsoft's wireless operating platform, and now Sony, which is also a licensee of
, Palm's operating system.
Paul Cockerton, head of corporate marketing at Symbian, stressed that none of the deals Symbian signs with licensees is exclusive. Nevertheless, it does add grist to the mill that Symbian is winning out over its rivals.
"If you look at the number of devices that use Palm OS or Windows CE, it is only about 20 million. There are about 10 million mobile phones shipped out each week, and considering we license to the four major mobile phone makers, as well as Philips and now Sony, we believe we are well on the way, if not already the standard," Cockerton added.
Many analysts appear to agree.
"Sony is a major deal to have," says Sanjay Jha, an analyst at the brokerage
Williams de Broe
, which has no investment banking relationship with Psion. "Obviously you can never be sure, but at the moment my impression is that
Symbian has a very good chance of being the dominant platform in this area." Jha has a buy rating on Psion.
It was only in November last year that Palm announced an agreement whereby Sony would license the Palm OS operating system and Palm Computing would support Sony's Memory Stick storage and data exchange technology as part of the Palm Computing platform.
While Sony will continue to develop a personal digital assistant (PDA) with Palm, Nainish Bapna, an analyst at
, points out that Sony being a licensee of Palm was one of Palm's major selling points during its successful IPO. However, he argues that "now there is no reason for Sony to develop products around Palm's 16-bit operating system when it can use the 32-bit EPOC."
Bapna has a buy rating on Psion. Nomura has performed no investment services for the company.
The upshot of this is it places Palm in a weaker position. This deal significantly raises Symbian's profile in the U.S., where many analysts still believe the competition for the PDA space is between Palm and Windows. And should Palm start talking to Symbian, the deal puts Palm in the position of junior partner. Bapna believes the chance of talks between the two parties is "very high."
Palm did not return calls.
Symbian's Cockerton did not mention Palm by name, but he said this deal with Sony represents only the first of many to come over the next 18 months, implying Symbian is already in talks with other potential licensees.
The Symbian bandwagon rolls on.