By Howard Solomon
Assistant editor, Network World Canada

Today’s announcement that Nokia will buy the rest of the shares of mobile operating system maker Symbian that it doesn’t already own and release the code to open source shows how influential Linux has become.

Nokia will shift the software unit’s assets into the newly-created Symbian Foundation, a not-for profit organization which will make all intellectual property available to its members, who will include handset makers such as Nokia, LG Electronics, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and a number of wireless carriers.

As Adam Leach, principal analyst at London-based Ovum writes in a research note, it reflects the success of Linux-based competitors from the LiMo Foundation and Google’s Android project. The Symbian Foundation, he says, is essentially the same as LiMo.

“Linux has become a real threat to Symbian’s competitive landscape,” writes Leach. Meanwhile Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS is growing.

The possibility of multiple operating systems is the biggest single barrier to mobile data services and revenues, Leach argues. But with the creation of the Symbian Foundation, he raises the prospect that Symbian, LiMo and Android will join together to create a single OS. That would make it easier for mobile carriers. But would Google surrender? I have my doubts, especially if the financially fat search-engine company sees its concept taking off among manufacturers. Google still has control over Android.

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal reported that mobile handset makers may not be able to release Android-powered phones by the end of the year, which had been a target. This may be merely early teething problems. But if Android can’t walk, Symbian will run.

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