Handset startup Sendo Ltd has dumped Microsoft Corp’s smart phone software for rival technology from Nokia Corp in what could be prove to be a turning point in the evolving market for next generation handsets.
A statement issued by the Birmingham, UK-based company read: Sendo has terminated its Smartphone development program utilising Microsoft’s Windows Powered Smartphone 2002 software. As a result, Sendo regrets to announce that it will not be shipping the Z100 Smartphone.
Instead, Sendo joins the growing band of licensees for Espoo, Finland-based Nokia’s Series 60 smart phone platform, based on the mobile operating system developed by London, UK-based Symbian Ltd.
The full reasons for Sendo’s decision remain unclear. However, CEO Hugh Brogan told news service Bloomberg that ditching Windows Smartphone for Series 60 will enable [Sendo] to customize our products better, which is what operators want.
Although only a minnow in the handset world, the decision is more than simply symbolic. Sendo has been at the leading edge of handset development around Windows Smartphone since Microsoft first started talking up the platform in August 2000.
Indeed, the company had become one of the major development and testing grounds for Microsoft’s untried software, then code-named Stinger. This was best evidenced by Microsoft’s $12m investment in the company in mid-2001.
However, things have clearly not been going well for some time. Seemingly endless delays have blighted Sendo’s Smartphone ambitions with the Z100, which was due to launch at the end of last year.
Sendo has also shown signs of willful disrespect for the giant, doggedly pursuing its intention to incorporate a high performance Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) virtual machine from Reading, UK-based Tao Group Ltd into the Z100. Speculation that Sendo had found it difficult to integrate Tao’s intent platform – which incorporates J2ME – with Windows Smartphone remain unconfirmed.
Whatever, Sendo’s decision will have been a difficult one as it will undoubtedly impact significantly on the company’s short term finances. It had hoped to sell millions of the hotly anticipated device.
For Microsoft, however, the situation could not have arisen at a worse time. After initially playing catch up, the company finally appeared to be clawing back some of the smart phone initiative from Symbian.
The announcement means that Orange SA’s SPV handset – introduced to a major fanfare in October – manufactured by Taiwan’s High Tech Computer Corp (HTC), will be the only Windows Smartphone device on the market when it arrives on the France-based mobile operator’s networks from next week.
This is certain to be a blow to Microsoft’s ambitions for the technology, drastically cutting the availability of Smartphone-powered devices to a single operator, albeit one with operations in a number of countries.
Sendo had been set to launch the Z100 this month with a number of partners, including Spain’s Telefonica Moviles, two out of three of Italy’s operators, SFR in France and T-Mobile in the UK.
Microsoft’s lack of operators using Windows Smartphone now looks likely to persist for the time being. The only other Windows Smartphone licensees, Samsung and Compal Electronics Inc, have failed to give launch dates for their own Microsoft-powered devices. Orange also has a twelve month exclusivity deal with HTC for the SPV design preventing other operators from benefiting from the R&D investment.
Meanwhile, Symbian powered-devices are starting to proliferate, with Nokia Corp reporting strong interest in its Series 60-powered 7650. The company said on Monday that it expects to have shipped two million of the devices by the end of the year and has reported very high satisfaction rates from users.
With Nokia’s Communicator 92xx series now established, several new Series 60 devices on the way and multiple new models from other Symbian licensees due over the next twelve months, Symbian may have regained the upper hand.
Sendo joins Nokia, Samsung Electronic Co Ltd, Siemens AG and Matsushita Communication Industrial Co Ltd (Panasonic) as a licensee of Series 60. Symbian as a whole can also boast licensing agreements with Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB and Motorola Inc
A Sendo spokesperson said the company now intends to re-architect the Z100 for Series 60 maintaining the same Texas Instruments Inc OMAP chipset and other basic components. But surprisingly, Microsoft and Sendo could continue to work together. They [Microsoft] have no intention of pulling out of Sendo [at this time], said the spokesperson.
Sendo is hoping to persuade its existing software partners to join it in supporting Nokia’s increasingly popular platform. That may include recently-signed Sendo partner Insignia Technologies Inc, whose Insignia Mobile Foundation (IMF) – the leading J2ME platform for the majority of handheld device platforms – does not currently support Symbian OS.
With samples of the Z100 already in the hands of reviewers and operators, the device is sure to become a highly sought after item among collectors of mobile phone memorabilia. Sendo could not say when the new Series 60 variant will launch as significant re-engineering needs to be done.