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Metrowerks sells Symbian tools to Nokia

Metrowerks has agreed to sell a portfolio of application development tools based on the Symbian smart-phone operating system to Finnish handset maker Nokia.

Under the terms of the agreement, Metrowerks will license to Nokia what it calls its core technologies (its flagship IDE, debugger and compiler), and Nokia will acquire the Symbian extensions, Java extensions and intellectual property associated with those technologies.

During a conference call with reporters and analysts, Metrowerks CEO Matt Harris characterized the deal as "a strong endorsement of our core technology." Metrowerks views the deal as a means to speed up development of that core technology, Harris says.

"We were searching for a way to accelerate investment in the tools," he says. "It made sense to us for Metrowerks to concentrate on its core technologies, and for a stakeholder in the Symbian market to concentrate on the Symbian-specific piece, and together increase the overall investment. We think it makes for a bigger market overall, for us and others in the Symbian market."

The Metrowerks deal is the second major Symbian announcement from Nokia this year. In February, it purchased shares of Symbian Ltd., the U.K.-based firm that develops and licenses the Symbian OS, which is owned by Psion. A year earlier, Nokia purchased Motorola's 19% stake in the company.

The list of Symbian stakeholders also includes Sony Ericsson, Samsung, Panasonic and Siemens. Motorola was a founding shareholder, but sold its stake to Psion and Nokia in September 2003. Metrowerks is an independent subsidiary of Freescale Semiconductor, which recently spun off from Motorola.

Nokia spokesperson Lee Epting denies a reporter's suggestion that her company is trying to control the Symbian OS with such acquisitions.

"Nokia is dedicated to driving interoperability and openness in the marketplace," says Epting, VP of Forum Nokia. "We have a significant investment in the Symbian platform, and we are dedicated to making that successful. But this is about helping to boost the whole Symbian ecosystem, which is why we will continue to support Symbian UIQ and any other Symbian-based offerings. Our intent is to continue to evolve the tools for the entire marketplace, not just for Nokia."

UIQ is a pen-based graphical user interface for the Symbian OS.

Nokia intends to invest in the platform-specific technologies acquired from Metrowerks, Epting says, and add new features and support to the tools.

Metrowerks will become a reseller of the Nokia tools, and will continue to invest in and extend its core technologies, says the firm's Harris. Fans of Metrowerks' products can expect an announcement sometime this fall about what Harris calls a "significant development in our core technology," due in early 2005.

As part of the agreement, 24 Metrowerks employees will be offered positions at Nokia's newly established Austin development center, the companies said.

Nokia and Metrowerks expect to close the deal during Q4 2004.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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