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Microsoft, Nokia Align To Bring Mobility to Productivity Space

Microsoft and Nokia are staking a new claim to the mobile phone space with a global alliance announced today.

In a joint online announcement, Kai Oistamo, Nokia's vice president for devices, and Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business Division, said the two companies will design, develop and market a new breed of smartphones aimed at the "mobile professional."

Elop noted that this is the first time Microsoft will develop Office Mobile for a platform other than Windows Mobile. Nokia's smartphones currently have access to Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync technology for synchronizing e-mail.

The new Nokia Microsoft mobile solution will run on Symbian, a mobile operating system acquired by Nokia this year. Symbian captured 51 percent of the smartphone OS market in the second quarter of 2009, according to Gartner. The OS is open source under a Symbian Foundation License.

The collaboration will focus on Microsoft's productivity applications including Office Mobile and SharePoint. New offerings on the Nokia platform will include Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile beginning next year, according to Microsoft.

The alliance will expand the access to Microsoft software on mobile devices.

"This is a major expansion of Microsoft's efforts to sell Office on mobile devices," stated B. Robert Helm, vice president of research for Office Communications Server at Directions on Microsoft, in an e-mailed statement. "[Microsoft] had taken baby steps toward Nokia before."

Microsoft licensed its Exchange e-mail technology to Nokia, Helm noted. It wrote a version of its instant messaging client Communicator that runs on some Nokia phones. However, this will be the first time that the mobile versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint will be available on a device that isn't running Windows Mobile.

According to the released joint statement, users of Nokia's future smartphones will be able to deploy rich Office applications, use enterprise instant messaging and presence, and access conferencing and collaboration applications.

Nokia captured the lion's share (36.8 percent) of the smartphone market in the second quarter of this year, according to a report from Gartner released today.   

Gartner associate Nick Jones said in a blog statement that the collaboration is great news for enterprises because it will give Nokia users more choice. He added that the move also bodes well for the Microsoft divisions responsible for Office, Exchange, SharePoint, OCS and System Center with increased sales of software.

Microsoft's Business Division is responsible for Office, Exchange and SharePoint. It has a strong incentive to make deals with organizations such as Nokia, according to Helms.

"This deal is about Microsoft's Business Division driving its own mobile strategy," noted Helms. "The Business Division will continue to cooperate with the Entertainment and Devices Division that owns Windows Mobile, but it's ready and able to cut deals with Windows Mobile competitors. That means that Microsoft's mobile software strategy as a whole is not tied to Windows Mobile."

A Microsoft spokesperson contacted by e-mail stated that there are currently more than 140 types of phones from 56 different device makers (from Samsung to Motorola to HTC) running Windows Mobile software.

"Mobility is one of Microsoft's top investment areas and we are 100 percent committed to Windows phones -- now and in the future," said the spokesperson. "We are excited for the future, including the upcoming launch of Windows Mobile 6.5 in the fall and the new version of Office Mobile for Windows Mobile next year."

On Tuesday, Bill Koefoed, general manager of Investor Relations for Microsoft, said in an online forum that Microsoft would not get into the hardware side of the mobile phone business but would continue to focus on enterprise enhancements such as data security and collaboration.

When asked about the success of offerings such as the iPhone and G-1, he said: "The game in mobility is not over."

About the Author

Herb Torrens is an award-winning freelance writer based in Southern California. He managed the MCSP program for a leading computer telephony integrator for more than five years and has worked with numerous solution providers including HP/Compaq, Nortel, and Microsoft in all forms of media.

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