Symbian to ship 200 million devices in the next 18 months and a bit about Nokia N900 awesomness

In all the hoopla about the Nokia Microsoft Office deal, that was announced last week, there was one tiny tidbit of information, which, while widely reported, did not garner much attention to it.

It was buried in the official statement from the Quickoffice about their views of Nokia Microsoft deal.

It said: “We’re shipping on over 100M smartphones and our next version, which includes many of these announced features by Microsoft, will ship on 200M Symbian phones before Microsoft’s product comes out in the marketplace.”

Well, anyone familiar with Symbian knows that Quickoffice is the dominant office app there. And we know that that there are tons of Symbian devices out there. So the figure of 100 million installed base is not a big surprise. But the next one – that Quickoffice will ship on 200 Symbian phones before the Microsoft version even comes out, is much more interesting, as someone else has already noted.

Now, while it was never mentioned specifically, the general consensus is that Microsoft will launch Mobile Office for Symbian in the next 18 months. This means that in the next 18 months,  at least 200 million Symbian handsets will be shipped, too.

Let’s do some quick math here. According to Gartner, in 2008 139 million smartphones, 72 million of them Symbian based,  were sold worldwide. First half of 2009 has seen 77.4 million smartphones, 38.83  million of them with Symbian, sold. Overall Symbian market share in first half of   2009, was a little above 50%. So, this is where we are today.

Now let’s take a look at  the next 18 months.

Again, according to Gartner, there will be 27% YoY growth in smartphone shipments in 2009. That’s about 176.5 million smartphones. And about 99.1 million of smartphones, yet to be sold in 2H, 2009. Even if Symbian market share holds steady at 50% (which quite a few people are skeptical about), that will mean 45.55 million Symbian smartphones shipped in the second half of 2009. And that’s the first 1/3 of the period we are looking into.

Now to  2010. And assume even more generous 30% YoY growth. That’s about  229.45 million smartphones. Then, again, let’s assume that Symbian keeps on 50% market share (which, many will say, is even more far fetched ;) ). That translates into 114.72 million of Symbian handsets shipped in 2010. About the time Mobile Microsoft office is ready.

Let’s add it all up. 45.55 million Symbian handsets in 2H 2009, plus 114.72 in 2010 gives us 160.27 million Symbian phones sold in the next 18 months.

Almost 40 million short of what Quickoffice tells us will ship in the same period. And that’s with  the assumptions that industry pundits, predicting inevitable demise of Symbian, Nokia and everything else that is on the wrong side of the Atlantic (i.e. not iPhone, Android, RIM or WebOS), will dismiss as widely optimistic.

Well, there is one assumption here, that needs to be addressed. It’s that Quckoffice actually knows what it is talking about and that their forecasts are grounded in reality. But, knowing the importance and experience of Quickoffice in Symbian ecosystem and mobile app industry as a whole, their close cooperation with Nokia, and that partners are usually privy to at least general platform development plans for the next year or so, I think it’s a quite believable forecast.

All this points to the conclusion, that, contrary to some sensationalist headlines about how Symbian is obsolete, Nokia is dropping it, and the OS is doomed, Symbian might be getting even stronger soon. Only in different places then it was strong before.

Up until 2008, most of the smartphones were high end, expensive top of the line devices. And they needed to be, because hardware able to run smartphone OS well, was more expensive then the things that made mid-range feature phone. But not anymore.

So Symbian is starting to move down the pricing chain, towards mid range, mass market devices.  The niche, were high volume feature phones used to rule. And it’s a good thing too. Despite all the advanced and highly efficient things that Symbian is able to do under the hood of the device (battery management, multi-tasking, graphics capabilities, network compatibility, etc;), due to the old T9 optimized Avkon based legacy interface, Symbian is simply unable to compete in high end full touch smartphone arena. And will not be ready until QT based Symbian^4 UI comes out at the end of 2010.

But it’s a whole different story at the lower price points. The competitive landscape hasn’t changed much there. Despite the OEM commitments, Android still has to prove it is able to power competitive mass market device. Apple isn’t even looking there yet. And others, like RIM or Windows Mobile are quite well known quantities.

So when Nokia speeds up the replacement of their home brewed S40 OS on a high volume feature phones with open smartphone OS, and Samsung decides that it needs Symbian not only for it’s flagships like Omnia HD or INNOV8, Symbian phone unit volumes should see significant boost, that alone might account for the volume discrepancy above.  And if Sony Ericsson decides that it might need Symbian to help them produce some of the “smash-hits” new CEO is thinking about, and LG finally gets serious about the smartphones, the forecasts might even prove rather pessimistic.

These things should carry Symbian quite well through the rough patch of versions ^2 and ^3, until it finally gets a modern user interface, and becomes a truly open, and easy to work with, mobile OS. Where other companies, that have had no previous experience with the OS, can start considering adding it to their own handsets.

And for those Nokia fans that a craving for something really advanced and cool from Nokia, there’s some good news too. The upcoming Maemo based Nokia N900/RX51 Rover smartphone/internet tablet is real, and it is awesome. At least that’s the opinion of a guy who tested hundreds of mobile devices, and routinely get’s his hands on new models, months before their official release.

Last few months he had a chance to play with Nokia N900, and was blown away by it. At least, if such phrases as “the most impressive device in 2009, all the others, mildly put, are not so (impressive)”, “compared to this, S60 looks like an old crap”, “I look at Nokia N97 in one hand, this device in another, and understand that..wow”,  “after living with it a few months, I can say that this smart(phone) has me drooling with wonder. And already pretty fast and stable” means anything. And coming from that source, it means quite a lot.

Here’s a couple of screen shots with from the new device to wet your appetite:

Nokia N900 Maemo screens

And be sure to check back later, because more info about new Nokia Rover is coming here tomorrow, or even, maybe, a bit later today.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • Cesar

    The real question is:

    Will Maemo+Symbian+Rover be enough to stop the powershift in the mobile business from Europe to the US (software) and Far East (hardware)? IMVHO no, it will only halt it for a moment.

  • Cesar

    The real question is:

    Will Maemo+Symbian+Rover be enough to stop the powershift in the mobile business from Europe to the US (software) and Far East (hardware)? IMVHO no, it will only halt it for a moment.