Microsoft and Nokia ally over Office in cloud

Summary:Nokia business smartphone manager Ilari Nurmi discusses his firm's roadmap for next year and its pact with Microsoft

With Android smartphones and Apple's iPhone making inroads into the enterprise, Nokia is not the first name that comes to mind when you think of smartphones for business, even though it remains the world's largest seller of mobiles. The company is trying to improve its corporate credentials by adding key enterprise features to Symbian^3 business phones, based on Microsoft services.

As Nokia prepares to launch the E7 slider Qwerty smartphone that replaces the Nokia E90 Communicator as its flagship business device and showcases the new Symbian^3 operating system — and the first Microsoft business tools — ZDNet UK talked to Ilari Nurmi, the Nokia vice president responsible for business smartphones and business mobility strategy.

We asked him to explain what Nokia's pact with Microsoft means for Symbian business users, what is on the roadmap for next year and whether the agreement still makes sense now Windows Phone 7 is here.

Q: With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is a competitor to Nokia. Why does it make sense for Nokia to work with Microsoft? What are you actually working on together?
A: Our basic mobility strategy is to bring to market the best business smartphones for professionals. A cornerstone in our strategy is that we build the products so they work seamlessly with enterprise infrastructure, so we do a lot of work with companies like IBM and Microsoft and Cisco to make sure the products work together well.

One of the items we've been working on very heavily in the past 15 months is an extensive alliance with Microsoft. We obviously have a long history working in the area of email but 15 months ago we announced an alliance for the whole suite of productivity, communication and collaboration solutions that Microsoft has, so they will be brought into Nokia devices.

The first product coming out of that alliance is Microsoft Communicator Mobile and that is now available on the first Nokia Symbian smartphones.

So that's a client for Microsoft's unified communication server Lync. What Lync features does it support?
Presence and instant messaging in the corporate environment is something we are very excited about. The functionality that is offered today is presence and IM and obviously there will be further iterations with more functionality.

Which Nokia phones will it run on?
The Office Communicator client is available today on the E72, the E5 and the E52 and then it will be on the Symbian^3 family — it is not yet commercially available but it will be available in the upcoming weeks. I'm running it today — I've been running it since August on my E7. Microsoft is very good in software development and it does a very good job of making sure that the product is actually available.

So it is Microsoft that develops the Communicator client for Symbian?
Microsoft is a Symbian app developer. It has large numbers of developers writing software for the Nokia devices and they do it with their own operating system and with Nokia smartphones.

Why does that make sense? Why does Microsoft want the Lync client on Nokia phones so much that it's working so closely with you when it already has an iPhone Lync client coming next year? Does this tie in with Office 365 and the way Microsoft is moving Office to the cloud?
Microsoft's whole Office strategy is about [being on] PC, phone and browser, and we are, in practice, a majority of the phone part. The ability for them to extend the Office franchise into the phone part — we are obviously a major force in that.

If you look at the opportunities across the world — at south-east Asia, the Middle East, and India where Nokia has huge market share — there are a lot of small companies that don't necessarily run their own infrastructure but that might want to get access to some of these tools when they're all in the cloud. The opportunity for Microsoft to utilise Nokia's power to provide that capability is very strong.

Which other Office services are going to be on Nokia devices? Windows Phone 7 has a SharePoint client.
Communicator Mobile is the first product but we have a very broad range of Microsoft products being brought into our devices. We're very excited about...

Topics: Cloud, Mobility, Developer


Mary Branscombe is a freelance tech journalist. Mary has been a technology writer for nearly two decades, covering everything from early versions of Windows and Office to the first smartphones, the arrival of the web and most things inbetween.

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