Speculation surrounding Nokia’s (s nok) Linux-based OS flared up again this morning with a Reuters report that the Finnish manufacturer will showcase a Maemo phone at Nokia World in Germany this week. So what would that mean for Symbian?
It’s getting tough to dismiss Nokia’s attention to Maemo. Germany’s Financial Times two weeks ago quoted a source close to the company as saying it may dump Symbian entirely in favor of Maemo, prompting a spokesperson to tell Om that Nokia “absolutely remain(s) committed to Symbian and S60.” Of course, it’s difficult to believe Nokia would scrap Symbian — which with a 50.3 percent market share remains the world’s dominant smartphone OS — just a year after spending $410 million to take over the platform and open-source it.
Instead, it looks as if Nokia will throw Maemo into the market in high-end devices to see if it can compete with the iPhone (s appl), which has eaten Symbian’s lunch over the last year. Maemo — which Nokia has used in its Internet tablets — is said to be more flexible than Symbian, especially in terms of its user interface.
There’s no question that Symbian’s user interface is lacking compared to those on Apple’s iPhone and some other handsets, and Maemo’s technological advantages could help Nokia compete with the new wave of high-end phones. But Nokia faces a substantial challenge in integrating the platform with Ovi, its umbrella brand of mobile Internet services. For Maemo to take off it will need the support of a thriving developer community and a vibrant, compelling app storefront.
Nokia has already experienced serious growing pains as it tries to evolve from a handset manufacturer into a wireless Internet services company. Adding another OS to its arsenal may only compound those problems.