The battle for mobile OS superiority escalated last week when the Symbian consortium signed up a mammoth ally, then closed the doors to its powerful wireless club.
Matsushita, the fourth-largest Japanese mobile phone producer - also known as Panasonic - became the last Symbian consortium member after it paid £22 million for a 8.8% stake in the venture that also includes Psion, Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia.
The deal was a blow to Microsoft, which is struggling to push its rival Windows CE OS in roughly the same arena. Symbian, which now boasts 65% of the worldwide mobile communications market, owns the Epoc OS for high-bandwidth data on mobile appliances.
Symbian head of marketing communications Jeremy Cobb said: "We will not invite anyone else to join Symbian. Matsushita is the last member."
"Symbian represents a formidable set of players. In the mobile communications space, it's way ahead," said Peter Richardson, principal analyst for Dataquest.
But Dilip Mistry, Microsoft's CE marketing manager for Europe, disputed the perception that CE had failed to capture significant market share: "We're achieving our growth aim. Symbian's strategy is a narrow-focused mish mash, not a co-ordinated end-to-end strategy. What about the server and services side?"
Richardson predicted that Microsoft's "diverse approach to the mobile market" strategy would drive applications such as NT and Outlook into the wider world.
Within the UK, Microsoft is working on strategically-important trials with BT. The telco giant is considering setting up NT-based data servers on its network for CE appliances.
By licensing Epoc to manufacturers worldwide, Symbian will reap rich rewards - a fee of £6 per unit for communicators and a £3 per unit fee for smart phones.
The addition of Matsushita strengthens Symbian's presence in the Asia Pacific region, particularly Japan, which will be the first country in the world to roll out third-generation mobile services.
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