Accenture buys Symbian Professional Services group: It’s not just about Symbian

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Candid insight is hard to obtain during the initial phases of an acquisition. Accenture’s purchase of the Symbian Professional Services group from Nokia is no exception. However, a little digging does indicate that from Accenture’s perspective this deal is about more than gaining access to Symbian skills. Read on.

For Nokia the sale of the Symbian Professional Services group is an essential step in opening up Symbian OS. According to a company statement: “During last year’s planning for the set-up of Symbian Foundation, it was clear that in the new ecosystem - instead of Nokia supporting operators, other device manufacturers, and silicon vendors - there would need to be an independent provider of these professional services,” 

It seems likely that Nokia then approached Accenture, given that “Nokia has been evaluating alternatives to ensure that both existing and new customers will have the services required available to them. Following this evaluation, we are very satisfied with the agreement with Accenture.”

Nokia’s statement continues: “The agreement allows Symbian Professional Services to realize its full potential in the supply of independent services to the open sourced Symbian ecosystem. In combination with Accenture’s strong brand, global sales organisation, and broad technology skills, the unit’s software engineering capabilities will be a significant benefit to customers throughout the industry.”

Nokia therefore seems to view the sale as underscoring its commitment to the open source community and the Symbian ecosystem, with Nokia noting that it “will expand Accenture’s role as a key supplier of new tools, products, and solutions to members of the Symbian Foundation, providing essential elements for success.” 

The embedded software market is important to Accenture. Over the past few years the company has evangelised about the challenges facing this market and smartphone manufacturers in particular. At the same time, the company has been building capabilities in this space. So why add the Symbian Professional Services group?

According to a company statement: “The strategic intent of the acquisition is to accelerate Accenture’s penetration of the embedded software engineering services market. The acquisition does this by gaining a critical mass of deeply skilled resources, together with key client credentials in the smartphone device manufacturing market.”

The statement continues: “While the acquisition will complete Accenture’s skill set in Symbian OS, the goal is to expand the service scope of the unit, to include other smartphone operating systems. In addition, we expect to integrate the unit with Accenture’s offshore based services. This will enable us to meet our client’s requirements for both deep skills and cost effectiveness, in a unique manner, [by offering services for] advanced technical support; innovative device tuning techniques for performance, memory, and power; advanced error diagnostics and fixing; and turnkey software development services for critical areas of the mobile software stack.”

It seems clear that Accenture will leverage this acquisition to position the company as a leading supplier of both services and software to manufacturers using a variety of smartphone operating systems, not only Symbian. This will place Accenture in direct competition with companies such as Digia and Teleca that have a high profile in the smartphone space, particularly with Symbian OS.

This is borne out by another statement from Accenture: “It is important to point out that on completion of the acquisition, Accenture will immediately start providing services for Symbian OS. In the long term, however, we plan to leverage these skills into other operating systems, such as Android, other Linux variants, and Windows Mobile.”

For current customers of the Symbian Professional Services group continuity will be important. Nokia appears to recognise this, indicating that “Nokia will not retain Symbian OS customer engineering and support per say, but we will naturally retain the skills needed for Symbian software and operating system development. We also believe Accenture to be an excellent partner in this area, for any party, including Nokia.”

Accenture has been a Symbian Platinum Partner for several years and will continue this association as a Symbian Foundation member. The spokesperson described this as "part of our strategy in the telecom software market".

The Symbian Professional Services group has been pivotal in driving the adoption of Symbian OS. Retaining this group within Nokia would certainly have been a barrier to wider adoption; what company would have wanted to either disclose its plans to Nokia or generate revenue for a potential rival. The sale to Accenture removes these barriers.

The sale places the group into a more competitive environment. As such, the group can no longer be used as a mechanism to encouraging adoption – which it may have while within Symbian. What impact this has in the long term is hard to determine, but it is clear that Symbian OS is moving into a phase where its own credentials are more important than ever for its success.

The acquisition is expected to complete during September or October of this year.