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Evolving an Open Ecosystem: The Rise and Fall of the Symbian Platform

Collaboration and Competition in Business Ecosystems

ISBN: 978-1-78190-826-6, eISBN: 978-1-78190-827-3

Publication date: 26 August 2014


Two key factors in the success of general-purpose computing platforms are the creation of a technical standards architecture and managing an ecosystem of third-party suppliers of complementary products. Here, we examine Symbian Ltd., a startup firm that developed a strong technical architecture and broad range of third-party complements with its Symbian OS for smartphones. Symbian was shipped in nearly 450 million mobile phones from 2000 to 2010, making it the most popular smartphone platform during that period. However, its technical and market control of the platform were limited by its customers, particularly Nokia. From 2007 onward, Symbian lost market share and developer loyalty to the new iPhone and Android platforms, leading to the extinction of the company and eventually its platform. Together, this suggests lessons for the evolution of a complex ecosystem, and the impact of asymmetric dependencies and divided leadership upon ecosystem success.




Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2008 User and Open Innovation Conference, the 1st Tilburg Conference on Innovation, and the Stanford Social Science and Technology Seminar. We thank the conference participants and the editors for their many helpful suggestions.


West, J. and Wood, D. (2014), "Evolving an Open Ecosystem: The Rise and Fall of the Symbian Platform", Collaboration and Competition in Business Ecosystems (Advances in Strategic Management, Vol. 30), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 27-67.



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