Nokia is paying €264 million to buy-out the other shareholders in handset software firm Symbian, a move believed to be an attempt to compete with, among others, Google’s planned Android operating system. The Finnish vendor, which already owns 48 percent of the UK-based software firm, said Sony Ericsson, Ericsson, Panasonic and Siemens had agreed to sell their stakes in Symbian, and added that Samsung was also expected to accept the offer. Symbian’s software is used in two-thirds of smartphones and 6 percent of all mobile phones. Symbian’s closest rival is Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system. Nokia expects the acquisition to reach break-even in 2010, and boost earnings in 2011. “The move’s a shrewd response to growing threats from other providers of mobile phone software,” CCS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber told Reuters, citing the open-source LiMo Foundation as well as Google and Apple.

Meanwhile, Symbian said the takeover is “a fundamental step” in the establishment of the Symbian Foundation, which will attempt to unite several different existing operating systems – Symbian OS, S60, UIQ and MOAP – to create one open mobile software platform. Expected to start operating in the first half of 2009, the foundation will bring together Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, NTT DoCoMo, AT&T, LG, Samsung, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone to collaborate on a new, royalty-free open software platform for mobile phones.