Nokia to transfer Symbian software activities to Accenture

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Nokia and Accenture today announced plans for a strategic collaboration, which will see Nokia transfer its Symbian software activities to Accenture. As a result, around 3,000 Nokia employees will transition to Accenture. Accenture will then provide Symbian-related development and support services to Nokia. In the future, Accenture will also provide future smartphone ecosystem services around the Windows Phone platform to Nokia. 

The agreement, which is expected to be finalised this summer and fully implemented by the end of the year, will transition employees located in China, Finland, India, United Kingdom and the United States. The majority of those effected are located in Finland or the United Kingdom. Initially the employees are expected to be working on Symbian-related software activities for Nokia, but will be retrained and redeployed in the longer term to other mobile and technology activities, as Symbian activity decreases into 2013 and 2014.

Going forward, Accenture will also provide "mobility software, business and operational services around the Windows Phone platform to Nokia and other ecosystem partners". Accenture will become a "preferred partner for Nokia's smartphone development activities". This makes sense given Nokia's previously stated intention of reducing the number and extent of its out-sourcing partners. The strategic collaboration represents a significant win for Accenture, which competes with a number of other companies, (e.g. Digia, Ixonos and Elektrobit) in this area, and places Accenture in poll position for the inevitably outsourcing of work from Nokia's Windows Phone activities.

In effect, this an out-sourcing agreement that will see Accenture become Nokia's preferred partner for external smartphone development and service support activities. Accenture will take over responsibility, from Nokia, for transitioning a number of software engineers from Symbian to other platforms. 

This should allow Nokia to focus more of its efforts on executing a successful transition to Windows Phone for its smartphone device portfolio and services. It further underlines Stephen Elop's determination to switch Nokia to its new strategy as quickly and as efficiently as possible in order to allow a concentrated focus on Windows Phone. 

The impact on Nokia's Symbian software activity, such as the support of phones and future software upgrades, is likely to be minimal (in the context of current plans)Nokia has already put in place a time-line for its remaining future Symbian devices and software updates and much of the work for these has already been carried out. While the amount of Symbian-related software activities will decrease over the next few years, as Nokia undertakes its transition to Windows Phone, it will continue as long as is necessary.

In cost terms Accenture outsourcing may be more expensive in the short term, with regards to financial costs. However, for Nokia, the costs of keeping legacy Symbian support in house go beyond any unit-specific financial cost. If the transition to Windows Phone is to be completed as quickly as possible, then a concentrated focus in product development and engineering teams on Windows Phone is essential.

Accenture may allow for better long term retention of Symbian expertise and lower long term costs, given the commercial focus and diversity of its Mobility units activities. Nokia can contract or extend the usage of Accenture's Symbian expertise as dictated by market demands for the related products, offering greater flexibility and cost control.

Marty Cole, chief executive, Accenture Communications and High Tech group, said:

"Mobility is a key area for Accenture. This collaboration with Nokia will enhance our ability to help clients across multiple industries leverage mobility to advance their business agendas. It is a real win-win for Accenture and Nokia".

Jo Harlow, executive vice president for Smart Devices, Nokia, said:  

"This collaboration demonstrates our ongoing commitment to enhance our Symbian offering and serve our smartphone customers. As we move our primary smartphone platform to Windows Phone, this transition of skilled talent to Accenture shows our commitment to provide our Symbian employees with potential new career opportunities."

Accenture has been working with Nokia since 1996. Accenture already has significant experience with Symbian; it acquired the professional services unit of Symbian in 2009, which became a key building block of Accenture's Mobility services portfolio.