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Microsoft, Nokia Discuss Partnership during Mobile World Congress Keynote

Microsoft (News - Alert) and Nokia on Friday unveiled their blockbuster new partnership. This Monday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer used his keynote speech to touch on the relationship, and he welcomed Stephen Elop on stage to talk about it as well.

Nokia (News - Alert) Corp.’s president and CEO explained the current trend precisely, saying: “The world is turning from a battle of devices to a war of ecosystems.”

Indeed. That’s exactly what led these two industry giants – one, an “iconic hardware” company, as Elop noted; the other, the world’s leading software provider – to join forces.

While this relationship involves the two companies working together to create mobile products and services, the announcement goes beyond that standard phrase.  Surprisingly, part of the deal involves Nokia adopting Windows Phone (News - Alert) as its principal smartphone strategy.

But the partnership goes further still. For example, Nokia will help Microsoft expand the Windows Phone to more geographies, market segments and price points as part of the relationship. Its operator billing agreements are supposed to make it easier for consumers to buy Nokia Windows Phone services in countries where credit cards are not commonly used. Nokia Maps, its search services and devices will be integrated with Bing and Microsoft adCenter. Microsoft development tools will be leveraged to create applications for Nokia Windows Phones. And the companies will combine their app stores. (Ballmer said 30,000 developers already have registered on the Mobile mobile app store.).

As you probably understand by now, this is a pretty big deal. As Elop noted in his comments at Mobile World Congress (News - Alert), these two companies both bring to the table global reach and distribution, big names and many other assets.

At a joint news conference announcing the partnership in London on Friday Ballmer said: “Ecosystems thrive when fueled by speed, innovation and scale. The partnership announced today provides incredible scale, vast expertise in hardware and software innovation and a proven ability to execute.”

Elop last week at the same event commented: “Today, developers, operators and consumers want compelling mobile products, which include not only the device, but the software, services, applications and customer support that make a great experience. Nokia and Microsoft will combine our strengths to deliver an ecosystem with unrivalled global reach and scale. It’s now a three-horse race.”

Ballmer at Mobile World Congress this week concluded his comments on the partnership by saying that Windows Phone will be the “most operator-friendly phone available.”

Meanwhile, as noted in a posting by TMCnet earlier this week, many of the world’s largest network operators announced their continued support for the Wholesale Applications Community, which is building specifications to help expedite the creation and support of applications that can run on any device, any operating system and any WAC (News - Alert) members’ mobile network. Each service provider will be responsible for managing (or outsourcing) its own app store in this effort, however.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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