March 22, 2005 4:58 AM PST

Microsoft partners with cell phone foe Symbian

Symbian, a maker of operating systems for cell phones, has licensed software from rival Microsoft, in a sign of growing cooperation between the two companies.

Symbian, based in London, said it will develop software that lets Symbian phones work with Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 e-mail, calendar, contacts and other personal-information tools, then make it available to Symbian licensees.

Licensing terms were not disclosed.

Both companies say the deal is meant to help sell more Symbian-based phones to corporate clientele. These handsets are known as smart phones because they have advanced capabilities such as word processing. Symbian is closely aligned with the smart-phone plans of Fujitsu and Nokia. Nokia is a part owner of Symbian.

"Symbian and Microsoft together are significantly expanding the number of customers who can directly access their corporate e-mail and (other) data from wireless devices," Dave Thompson, vice president of Microsoft's Exchange Server Product Group, said in a statement.

"This will help all Symbian OS licensees meet the needs of the enterprise market," Marit Doving, a Symbian executive vice president, said in statement.

But the deal is also an extraordinary development signaling a possible detente between the two companies vying to control the market for software to power smart phones. Those devices make up an indiscernible percentage of today's 1.2 billion cell phones, but they're expected to become more prevalent by the end of the decade. For now, Symbian dominates the market, mainly because Microsoft has had trouble generating interest for its phone software at No. 1 handset maker Nokia and others.

The deal also shows how Microsoft is willing to work more closely with Nokia, which has been hesitant to get too close to a company it sees as an outsider from the PC-centric world.

 

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