Nokia Confirms Partnership with Microsoft, Coming Windows Phones
As predicted, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft that will see the faltering phone company produce Windows Phone 7 handsets.
"Nokia will adopt Windows Phone as our primary smartphone strategy . We will help drive the future of the platform, bringing expertise on hardware optimization, language support and software customization. We will bring Windows Phone to extended price points, market segments and geographies," said Elop in a company press event Friday morning (Feb. 11).
Nokia's worldwide reach — the geographies to which Elop is referring — makes it an attractive partner for Microsoft, who still has a relatively small international presence with Windows Phone 7 handsets. It also gives Nokia access to other Microsoft properties that are integrated into Windows Phone 7, such as Bing search, Xbox Live gaming and Microsoft Office.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who was also present at the press event, expressed excitement over how Nokia could help propel the Windows Phone 7 brand forward.
"This partnership with Nokia will dramatically accelerate the development of a vibrant, strong Windows Phone ecosystem," Ballmer said.
There's little disagreement, however, that Nokia is the one who needs this partnership the most. Its smartphones have performed poorly, and its Symbian operating system, while still the most numerously used worldwide, can't keep up with iOS and Android and is losing market share fast. Producing Windows Phones will allow the company to jump straight into a proven platform and be instantly competitive.
Nokia confirmed during the press even that the company plans to phase Symbian out completely in favor of Windows Phone 7, cutting out Symbian completely by the end of 2012. After the announcement, approximately 1,000 Nokia employees who work on the Symbian platform reportedly walked out of work in protest. There's no information as to whether any of them resigned their positions.
Elop did not announce any specific Windows Phone 7 handsets or give details on when the first phone can be expected. He did reveal, however, that Microsoft has given the company complete authority to customize Windows Phone 7 however it wants, something that Microsoft has denied all other Windows Phone 7 handset makers. Elop said Nokia will not likely take that opportunity very far, though, as they want to maximize compatibility with Windows Phone apps and other resources.
During the Q&A session after the announcement, Elop also clarified the company's stance on MeeGo, the smartphone platform the company was previously developing. The MeeGo project will still move forward, but as a learning opportunity more than a financial one. Apparently MeeGo will be more experimental and will not have the broad ecosystem of apps and support Nokia plans to put behind its Windows Phone 7 initiative.