Nokia Gets a Cool $630 Million from Europe to Spend on Symbian

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 19, 2009

Nokia has just reported that it has received a $630 million loan from the European Investment Bank to help it develop the Symbian operating system and stay relevant in the increasingly competitive mobile operating system war. Looks like Nokia's move last summer to buy out the remaining shares of Symbian for $410 million was more prescient than many people realized. Along with that move, Nokia also put the Symbian operating system on an open source course. Just this week, at the Mobile World Congress in Spain, vendors lined up behind Symbian, LiMo's Linux-based operating system, and Android. $630 million is a lot of money. Will it change Symbian's fate, and how does it affect LiMo and Android?

Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOm notes that a post from the European Investment Bank's web site says the following:

"The task of the Bank is to contribute towards the integration, balanced development and economic and social cohesion of the EU Member States. The EIB raises substantial volumes of funds on the capital markets which it lends on favourable terms to projects furthering EU policy objectives. The EIB continuously adapts its activity to developments in EU policies."

Stacey also associates this latest loan with Europe's increased wariness of U.S.-based technology monopolies, which I agree with. The European Commission  has been steadily policing Microsoft on topics such as offering browser choice on new computers. With this loan, though--given its size--the Android and LiMo mobile open source operating systems are likely to feel the brunt of the blow.

According to Nokia's statement on the loan (it quotes the amount at 500 million Euros), the money will be used in more than one way, but there's no question that the open source Symbian OS will benefit big time:

"Nokia envisages that the R&D activities supported by this loan will also benefit the work of the Symbian Foundation and its development of open source software for mobile devices."

The loan will be delivered over a five-year period, not all at once. I'm guessing that Google is going to have to answer this funding with some significant funding for Android development. On the proprietary mobile operating system front, Apple has a $100 million fund supporting the iPhone, RIM has a $150 million fund behind the BlackBerry, and Microsoft, well, Microsoft is Microsoft. Google can more than afford to financially support the growth of Android, and now the pressure is going to be on to do so. I'm betting that LiMo will be the odd man out here. Money, or rather big money, is going to be an increasingly important factor as open source mobile operating systems compete fiercely in the coming years.