Just announced in an online press conference, news of which broke yesterday, Microsoft and Nokia have formed an alliance to create and develop a slimmed-down Microsoft Office suite designed for Nokia mobile phones.
Both Nokia and Microsoft will begin designing and building the software together. It will essentially be Office Mobile for Windows Mobile but ported to the rival operating system on Nokia phones which run the Symbian operating system.
I've used Nokia smartphones from the age of 16 and while they have their ups and downs, over time they are a pretty well all-rounded set of devices. The problem is that they don't work under "Mac conditions" - a description of hardware which is specifically designed for the hardware it serves, making the interaction between the two absolutely seamless and without (or at least with little) flaws or bugs. The BlackBerry also works under these conditions, making the device so robust in hardware and software interaction.
During the press conference they kept going on about "enterprise this" and "enterprise that", but failed to mention or seemingly take into consideration the effects on another major mobile market share - the quintessential student.
Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote will be the main applications which will be offered in this alliance. These, of course, are the core applications for Microsoft Office and at least one of these applications will have been used by every student at a university today.
Exchange technology will be thrown in to allow email technology to work with non-Exchange native devices, which will be a relief to a vast minority of users who struggle to connect their Nokia phones to their university email service, without a third-party application.
Productivity and collaboration - two very boring business-type words which makes the average person fall into comatose - will be explored in this deal, such as enabling instant messaging will allow two people to work on something across campus or even at opposite ends of a lecture theatre.
For those who have the pleasure of having a virtual-learning environment which runs on SharePoint Server will be delighted to hear mobile access to these intranet and extranet sites will also be supported.
OneNote will be included in the Office applications for Nokia phones, which will be of great relief to students who increasingly use the application to manage their work and studying lives.
After using Office Mobile for Windows Mobile for a number of months last year, I found the features didn't stretch the imagination too much. I can understand there isn't too much you can plug into such a small application but a stretch wouldn't go amiss. Formatting, bullet points, and a send-elsewhere feature - allowing you to send over-the-air to Office web applications (when it is released) or to your university email inbox - would be a fine feature to include.
But what Nokia/Microsoft should avoid doing is releasing a trial or "read only" office suite pre-installed onto phones which is exactly what Research in Motion does. While there is no doubt it is useful having document readers on your phone, you don't really want to be in a position where you have to pay for a licence key to upgrade to a version which opens up all of the features of reading and writing. This makes good business sense, but really drives the consumer potty.
As a professional and a consumer, provided the time and effort goes into making the applications stable and work without a hitch (which Microsoft seems to fail at doing at the best of times) then they won't go wrong. To me, they have already made a bold step by partnering with Nokia to assist in writing the applications to ensure that those who know the operating system details inside and out can make the software to the highest of quality.
The Office applications will be available for Nokia E-series phones (at first, anyway, then widely throughout afterwards) will be expected to be available next year, although no announcement was made of exactly when, nor how they would distribute or whether they would charge for it.