Panasonic Mobile to focus on Linux

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Panasonic looks set to focus its effort around the Linux operating system rather than the Symbian OS. In a recent press release Matsushita announced they would be reorganising global R&D. It is accelerating development of the Linux OS, and closing the US R&D office where Panasonic's Symbian development took place. Read on for more and a status check on Symbian and S60.

Panasonic's move will come of something of a blow to both Symbian and Nokia. Panasonic along with Samsung was the only active licensee of S60 other than Nokia with phones in the marketplace. 

Nokia currently lists Samsung, Panasonic, Siemens, Lenovo, LG and itself as S60 licensees, but of these only Lenovo, LG, Samsung, and Nokia are thought to be actively working on S60 handsets. This year with the purchase of Siemens by BenQ (and subsequent ceasing of Symbian / S60 activity), the death of Sendo and now Panasonic's strategic change has seen the number of S60 licensees reduced. The strategy of licensing S60 to other handsets vendors has not been as successful as Nokia may have hoped. However with the opposing platforms facing immaturity and major fragemnetation issues (Linux), questions about fragementation and power (Java) and commoditisation / trust concerns (Windows Mobile) S60 remains in a strong position.  Competition from UIQ 3 which has been largely absent this year will also heat up in 2006 with several companies expected to announce handsets based on the UIQ 3 platform.

Panasonic's decision to concentrate on Linux rather than S60 will perhaps be less keenly felt at Symbian where the phones from Sharp, Fujitsu, Mitsubishi, Sony Ericcson and Motorola based on the FOMA UI has been this years unheralded suces sstory. However it should give Symbian pause for thought as Linux based phones shape up to be it main competition in the mid market in the forthcoming years. Windows Mobile is looking to enter the mid tier, but is more likely to continue to provide Symbian's primary competition in the high tier. Symbian will have to address the questions of Linux perceived openess and cost savings and Windows Mobile end-to-end Enterprise advantages.

The overall picture for Symbian remains relatively healthy. In their last set of results Symbian said that there were '56 Symbian OS phone models under development by 11 licensees', which means there is still a wide and ctive manufacturer community building Symbian handsets. Licensees known to be working on new Symbian phones include Nokia (S60, S80), Sony Ericsson (UIQ, FUI), Motorola (UIQ, FUI), Samsung (S60), LG (S60), Lenovo (S60), Fujitsu (FFUI), Mitsubishi (FUI), Sharp (FUI), and possibly Arima (UIQ) and  also likely to be working on Symbian projects. In terms of user interfaces this is likely split between 10 FOMA UI handsets, 30 S60 handsets, 13 UIQ handsets and a few miscellaneous projects making up the last of the numbers.


Matsushita Press Release in full:

Matsushita Electric to Reorganize Overseas Mobile Phone Operations; Phasing out 2.5G GSM operations to focus on next-generation mobile terminal technologies and operations

OSAKA, Japan--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dec. 9, 2005--Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (MEI (NYSE: MC)), today announced that one of its subsidiaries, Panasonic Mobile Communications Co., Ltd. (Panasonic Mobile), will phase out overseas 2.5G GSM mobile terminal operations due to severe global competition. By concentrating resources into next-generation mobile terminal technologies, as well as unifying platforms and core technologies for the Japanese and overseas markets, Panasonic Mobile aims to improve development efficiency and product competitiveness. Sales and service activities for the current GSM products will continue.

In line with this decision, the following initiatives will commence from January 2006:

(1) In order to concentrate resources into the development of common core technologies and next-generation mobile terminals, Panasonic Mobile's global R&D structure will be reorganized.

Panasonic Mobile will accelerate the development of a global platform based on the Linux * Operating System (OS) that is now being used in mobile terminals for the Japanese market. Furthermore, the Linux OS-based platform will be integrated into Matsushita's newly developed system LSI, resulting in the establishment of global platforms through integrating core technologies for wireless modem and AV processing. In this way, Panasonic Mobile will further strengthen technological foundations for next-generation mobile terminal development on a global basis, as well as reinforce its mobile terminal business in Japan.

By focusing on the development of a Linux OS-based global platform, Panasonic Mobile will close R&D operations at Panasonic Mobile Communications Development Corporation of U.S.A. (PMCDU) in the United States, which has been developing other OS platforms. In addition, R&D operations at Panasonic Mobile Communications Development of Europe Ltd. (PMCDE) in the United Kingdom will concentrate on the development of 3G and next-generation technologies such as wireless modems and platforms.

(2) With the phasing out of GSM mobile terminal operations, Panasonic Mobile will reorganize its overseas manufacturing facilities.

Panasonic Mobile Communications Corporation of the Philippines (PMCP), where mainly GSM terminals have been produced will be closed. The GSM manufacturing in the production lines at Panasonic Mobile & Automotive Systems Czech, s. r. o. (PMACZ) in the Czech Republic will be discontinued. GSM manufacturing at Panasonic Putian Mobile Communications Beijing Co., Ltd. (PMCB) in China will shift to 3G mobile terminal production.