INTERVIEW - First phone with new Symbian due from Asian vendor

LONDON (Reuters) - The first cellphone running revamped Symbian 3 software is set to be introduced by an Asian vendor, not Nokia, the main user of the most widely used mobile operating system, Symbian’s chief told Reuters.

Lee Williams, Executive Director of Symbian Foundation, attends the Reuters Technology summit in Paris May 19, 2009. REUTERS/John Schults/Files

Last month Nokia warned its first phone using Symbian 3 software -- which is faster and simpler to use for consumers and software developers -- would be delayed into the third quarter from the second, triggering a sell-off in its shares.

Nokia still makes around 40 percent of the smartphones, but it has struggled against new rivals Apple and Google at the high end of the market, and Symbian 3 is seen by investors as the first step for the Finnish handset maker to make its smartphones competitive again.

Lee Williams, executive director of Symbian Foundation, declined to name the Asian vendor who would ship the first Symbian 3 model, but said Symbian 3 code was nearly ready.

“Symbian 3 is almost completely mature. There is a small share of code which is pending checking by its contributors,” Williams said in an interview.

Williams said while Symbian 3 is the major development from current version, the step to Symbian 4 - to come to market in 2011 -- will be larger, also revamping the user interface.

“By first quarter 2011 I would expect to have very mature Symbian 4. We are heavily dependent on Nokia’s development efforts” Williams said.

Nokia bought out other shareholders in Symbian in 2008 and opened the software for any manufacturers to use for free on an open-source basis. The Finnish handset maker is still the key contributor to the development of the software, and creates more than 90 percent of sales volumes of Symbian phones.

He said the biggest challenge Symbian was facing was the long process for application developers to get their programmes into consumers’ hands.

Developers can get software into Apple’s iPhone within a week, while the process for Symbian software developers can take half a year due to the foundation’s long-lasting security checks.

Symbian is the most widely used operating system in smartphones, ahead of those of Research in Motion, Apple, Google and Microsoft.