In an effort to tackle recent advances into the smartphone world by Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android, Nokia has announced its intention to buy the remaining 52 percent of Symbian shares that it does not already own and open the mobile operating system for royalty free use.

Though Symbian software has never been popular in the US, it is used widely throughout Europe where it holds about two-thirds of the market for smartphone operating systems. Furthermore, Nokia has formed the Symbian Foundation to drive the new platform globally, together with big-name partners AT&T, LG, Samsung, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone.

The move is an important one and will probably fuel proliferation of not only Symbian-based devices, but also of mobility applications and software for the platform. This also leaves Apple, Microsoft, RIM and Palm as the only major providers of proprietary mobile platforms. The Symbian Foundation is expected to start operating during the first half of 2009, subject to the closing of the acquisition.