I’m covering the Mobile 2.0 event in SF. One of the early highlights was a talk by David Wood of Symbian, who talked again how Symbian, the world’s leading mobile operating system, will use open source to open up Nokia (the world’s largest handset maker, which recently bought Symbian) to spur innovation.

Notably, Wood for the first time we’re aware of steered from the Nokia party line, which until now has been that only one platform — that of Nokia/Symbian — will dominate the global market for phones. However, this morning Wood conceded that the platform has a fight on its hands. He said several operating systems are duking it out over the next 18 months. He promised some changes to Symbian, including going from three user interfaces to a single one (S60), and changing their licensing model (to lower the barriers to entry for developers from its current outrageously high barriers, by lowering fees and cutting redtape). Symbian’s goal is to remain the world’s leading mobile software company.

We’ve been waiting for some time for more details about Symbian’s plans, because they’re important indicators of how well Nokia can be expected to do against the emerging threats of Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android. Wood said that Symbian will continue market dominance through at least 2013. However, Wood stayed away from any singificant details, and it didn’t take long for the audience here to turn to their BlackBerrys and iPhones and start typing emails.

There’s a batch of other mobile startups presenting today too (see our earlier post).

But dominating the day’s agenda is a more sober theme: How mobile companies and developers must adjust to a tougher economic climate, namely the recession. Gregory Gorman, the conference’s organizer, tells me that at least 70 expected attendees at the conference canceled at the last minute, saying their companies have been stunned by the economic downturn and have cut travel budgets.

Still, the recession is unlikely to stem the tide of innovation happening, as carriers are forced to respond to the iPhone’s success by opening up to new phones and allowing users to access cool applications.

Another interesting project to watch today is O2 Litmus, which is O2’s stealth project that intends to bring together mobile developers and early mobile users and which has generated some buzz. O2 Litmus project leader James Parton will be speaking more about the project later this morning. See its sign-up page here. Some insiders say its a way for operators to develop a ‘Mobilization Factory,’ a sort of conveyor belt of innovative and useful mobile services that avoids interfering with legacy processes.

[Matthaus Krzykowski contributed to this report]

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