Microsoft, Nokia team to put Office apps on mobile phones

Deal should give Microsoft leverage against Google and others that are attacking its Office business with free or low-priced, Web-based productivity apps

Microsoft and Nokia are working together to put a version of Microsoft's Office productivity applications on Nokia handsets, the companies said Wednesday.

Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop and Nokia Executive Vice President for Devices Kai Oistamo unveiled the alliance -- which should give Microsoft leverage against Google and others that are attacking its Office business with free or low-priced, Web-based productivity applications -- in a teleconference.

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Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will begin working together immediately to design, develop and market productivity applications for mobile professionals, bringing an application called Microsoft Office Mobile to Nokia's Symbian devices, they said in a press statement. They will also do the same for other Microsoft communications, collaboration and device-management software.

The applications will be available first on Nokia's Eseries phones, which are optimized for the business market, but eventually will extend to other Nokia handsets. Microsoft and Nokia also will jointly market the applications to business customers and carriers, they said.

The Microsoft-Nokia deal brings two competitors together. Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform for handsets competes with Symbian, the OS for most Nokia phones. However, Windows Mobile has never really found solid footing in the mobile market, while Nokia's Symbian is still the market share leader for midrange handsets, said Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff.

Putting Office applications on Nokia handsets is a savvy business move for Microsoft, he said, and will also help both companies compete against their mutual rivals Apple and Research in Motion, which have made life difficult for both companies in the mobile market. Apple's iPhone remains primarily a consumer phenomenon, while Research in Motion's Blackberry OS is extremely popular with business users.

Elop and Oistamo said that the partnership is based on Microsoft's and Nokia's common goal to make mobile workers more effective as mobile devices become more evolved and powerful. "This partnership was founded with the customer in mind and understanding that mobile workers of the future will need to get more out of their mobile phones," Oistamo said.

"This whole relationship is about expanding ... from a business-productivity perspective," Elop said. "We need to take the broad productivity experiences and put them in the hands of as many people as possible."

The deal does not mean that Microsoft is conceding to Nokia's Symbian as the dominant OS for smartphones, Elop said. Oistamo said that Nokia has no plans to offer Windows Mobile on its own handsets.

Both said the two companies will remain fierce mobile competitors even as they collaborate to bring Office to more mobile workers. Microsoft already offers Office Mobile on Windows Mobile handsets and plans to put a new version of the application on mobile phones next year.

"We both believe strongly in our respective strategies but we also believe in our new alliance," Elop said.

The first application to appear on Nokia phones will be Microsoft Office Communicator, the company's instant messaging and Web presence client for business users, Oistamo said. This will happen sometime next year, he said, with other applications to follow.

Next to its Windows OS business, Microsoft's Office business is the primary source of the company's revenue. However, its Office consumer business has been declining, showing that pressure from Google and other less expensive productivity applications is beginning to take its toll at the low end.

To counter this slide, Microsoft also has been working on its own Web-based version of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote called Office Web Apps. That offering will be available on PCs through a browser at the same time it releases the next version of Office 2010 in the first half of next year. Office Web Apps is scheduled to be in a technical preview this month.

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