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August 11, 2009

Microsoft, Nokia team up to put Office on smartphones

But could the deal spell the end of Windows Mobile?

By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft and Nokia have entered into an alliance that will bring Office to Nokia mobile phones. The partnership is intended to strengthen the companies’ position in mobile email market, especially in North America. Currently, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry dominantes the American corporate mobile email market. 

Reuters quoted Nokia’s executive vice president Robert Andersson, as saying: This is giving some of our competitors — let’s spell it out, RIM — a run for their money. I don’t think BlackBerry has seen the kind of competition we can provide them now.

Although Nokia says the deal will help them take on BlackBerry maker RIM, Gartner research vice president and distinguished analyst Nick Jones believes that it is HTC that may suffer most. The deal also has negative implications for Microsoft’s Windows Mobile offering, he believes.

“This is bad news for HTC who’ve been big supporters of Windows Mobile. I bet the Windows Mobile team aren’t ecstatic either. Despite loud protestations that Microsoft is deeply committed to WinMo they wouldn’t have needed this alliance with Nokia if WinMo were the leading smartphone operating system. But it’s only in 4th place, which isn’t good enough given all those years of investment. I see this as a tacit admission from Microsoft that WinMo hasn’t made the grade,” he said.

Jones questioned how long Microsoft will keep supporting Windows Mobile. “I am becoming more concerned about its future and I worry that WM7 could even be the last throw of the dice. Imagine you’re Steve Ballmer, and in two years time WinMo was still 4th in smartphone market share. How much longer would you keep throwing money at it?” he asked.

Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will begin collaborating on the design, development and marketing of productivity solutions for the mobile professionals, bringing Microsoft Office Mobile and Microsoft business communications, collaboration and device management software to Nokia’s Symbian devices.  

The companies said that the suite of applications will first be launched on company’s business-optimised range, Nokia Eseries. 

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Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft Business Division, said: Today’s announcement will enable us to expand Microsoft Office Mobile to Nokia smartphone owners worldwide and allow them to collaborate on Office documents from anywhere, as part of our strategy to provide the best productivity experience across the PC, phone and browser. 

This announcement builds on the existing work Nokia is doing to optimise access to e-mail and other personal information with Exchange ActiveSync. Nokia intends to start shipping Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile on its smartphones soon, followed by other Office applications and related software and services.  

The companies said that users will be able to view, edit, create and share Office documents on more devices with mobile-optimised versions of Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote, and enterprise instant messaging and conferencing with Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile. 

Kai Oistamo, executive vice president for devices at Nokia, said: Together with Microsoft, we will develop new and innovative user experiences for employees of small and large businesses alike, ensuring Nokia’s smartphones are an integral part of the office and home-office environment, and addressing the significant opportunity in mobile enterprise productivity.

The announcement will be good news for enterprise clients, according to Gartner’s Jones.

“Clients with Nokia devices and Microsoft back ends will have more choice. This is also good for the Microsoft divisions responsible for Office, Exchange, Sharepoint, OCS and SystemCentre,” he said. “They will have more potential users and be able to sell more software. It’s also good news for those enterprises who were getting worried about the future of Windows Mobile, now they have an alternative.”

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