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When Nigel Clifford took over as chief executive of the London-based cell-phone software company Symbian this month, he walked into a daunting role: Microsoft slayer. Symbian makes operating systems that power smart phones--devices that make calls but also handle data, video, music, fancy games and e-mail. Symbian, with all of 913 employees, is pummeling Microsoft in that growing market. Of the 14.4 million smart phones that shipped globally last year, 82.1% use Symbian and only 6.4% use Microsoft, according to Reading, England, research firm Canalys.

But Clifford can't rest on his laurels. While Symbian has excelled in the market for...

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