Contending operating systems

The principal battles in the wars between operating systems are fought inside the shells that enclose mobile phones. The conflict is between the chipsets, the grouping (“set”) of integrated circuits (“chips”) that control traffic in a mobile. This is a world riddled with patents, and where Qualcomm happens to be a major player.

In the summer of 2008, the chipset industry underwent radical reconfiguration, first when Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and DoCoMo announced that they were going to merge Symbian OS and the S60, UIQ and MOAP(S) software platforms to form a joint, open platform. These companies were, together with AT&T, LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, ST Microelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone, going to establish the Symbian Foundation to make this shared platform more attractive.

The procedure adopted was that Nokia bought out the other owners of Symbian and created the foundation, which was to be a non-profit organization open to all.

This was the beginning of the end for UIQ as a company. UIQ, which had its head office in Ronneby, Sweden, had been founded in 1998 to develop a user interface based on Symbian and developed the operating systems for several of Sony Ericsson’s most successful models. In October 2007, Sony Ericsson and Motorola concluded an agreement to share ownership of UIQ.

When the interface was made open to everyone, however, UIQ’s core business disappeared overnight, its staff were given notice and the company, which employed 370, was made bankrupt at the end of 2008.

Ericsson Mobile Platforms (EMP) had to choose a path. After discussions and negotiations in several quarters, it was announced in August 2008 that EMP and the mobile division of the Swiss company ST Microelectronics were to merge to form a joint-venture company in which Ericsson and ST Microelectronics would own equal shares.

The new company was named ST-Ericsson, its head office was placed in Geneva, the CEO was Alain Dutheil, and Carl-Henric Svanberg was chairman of the board. It had 8,000 employees, 3,000 from Ericsson Mobile Platforms and 5,000 from the mobile division of ST Microelectronics.

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn

© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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