The smartphone race accelerated with word today that Nokia would buy software maker Symbian. The move brings a more focused competitor to the iPhone, Windows Mobile, and the BlackBerry.
Nokia wants to better exploit Symbian, which packs underappreciated power in many cellphones. While Nokia smartphones dominate in Europe, they aren't big sellers here. And of the Nokia smartphone owners I know, most don't even realize what they have. They just wanted a Nokia phone with a good Internet browser or a good camera. They don't take advantage of the phone's power. They're not downloading the software that developers write for the Nokia phones.
Now smartphone makers sense opportunity because of the excitement that Apple has generated with the iPhone. But Nokia was stymied because it only half controlled Symbian. It shared Symbian with a group of phone makers who used different versions of the software on their smartphones.
Nokia realized it had to cut through the clutter with Symbian. The company decided to buy the system. Other phone makers can still use the system, and a foundation will guide its development. But make no mistake. The developers will work for Nokia, and Symbian will gain needed clarity.