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Linux is Gaining on Symbian Smartphone Lead

According to the latest research on smartphone markets from ABI Research, Nokia has maintained its leadership position with a 56.4 percent share of the 70.9 million units shipped in 2006.

Nokia sold 40 million smartphones in 2006, compared to 28.5 million in 2005. Motorola also had a strong 2006 and occupied the second position with 8.5 percent market share, driven by the success of its Linux-based devices in China, most notably the MING. At the same time, Symbian's strong position in the smartphone operating system market is under continued and increasing threat.

According to mobile wireless research analyst Shailendra Pandey, "The key in differentiating smartphone products still lies in the physical design, and the look and feel of the user interface. The right combination of size, form factor, operating system, and bundled applications will determine the success of a smartphone."

In addition to the usual features, consumers are now increasingly seeking smartphones that have touch screens, MP3 players, Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth, fast processors, and lots of memory as well as an expansion card slot.

ABI Research's new report, "Smartphones and the OS Market" found that there is a growing need to save on software bill of materials as handset ASPs continue to spiral downwards. This trend has been highlighted by Symbian's decision to lower its license fees, and by an increasing interest in Linux.

Research director Stuart Carlaw remarks that, "It is not a question of if but when Linux will have an impact upon this market. In 2006, Symbian was estimated to have a 73 percent share of the smartphone OS market, yet our forecast is that it will to fall to 46 percent by 2012, due to strong competition coming most notably from Linux, but also from Windows Mobile."

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