Nokia and Microsoft have announced a major partnership that will see the handset maker adopt Windows Phone 7 as its principal smartphone platform, while contributing heavily towards its further development.
The Finnish handset maker, which brought its troubled Symbian platform back in-house only last year soon after new chief Stephen Elop took over, will spin it out again as a "franchise platform", it said in a statement. MeeGo, Nokia's joint Linux OS project with Intel, will become fully open source and the company will still release a "MeeGo-related product" this year.
Alberto Torres, the head of Nokia's MeeGo efforts, has stepped down, the company said. The moves were announced on Friday, following days of intense speculation that was largely fueled by a leaked Elop memo, warning that the company was standing on a "burning platform".
Nokia and Microsoft's chief executives Stephen Elop and Steve Ballmer discuss the partnership. Photo credit: David Meyer
According to a statement, Nokia will "contribute its expertise on hardware design, language support, and help bring Windows Phone to a larger range of price points, market segments and geographies". The manufacturer will adopt Bing for its smartphone search, and will contribute Nokia Maps to Microsoft's own cartographical efforts. Nokia's Ovi applications and content store will be integrated with the Windows Phone Marketplace.
"Today, the battle is moving from one of mobile devices to one of mobile ecosystems, and our strengths here are complementary," Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer and Elop said in a joint statement. "Ecosystems thrive when they reach scale, when they are fueled by energy and innovation and when they provide benefits and value to each person or company who participates. This is what we are creating; this is our vision; this is the work we are driving from this day forward."
The companies, which already have a longstanding partnership deal over office productivity software, said the deal would increase the scale of both, and each company will "focus on its core competencies".
Nokia said it expects to ship another 150 million Symbian phones. There are 200 million Symbian phones being used today, and the company said it "recognises the opportunity to retain and transition" those users.
"Under the new strategy, MeeGo becomes an open-source, mobile operating system project," the statement read. "MeeGo will place increased emphasis on longer-term market exploration of next-generation devices, platforms and user experiences. Nokia still plans to ship a MeeGo-related product later this year."
The company did not say whether the MeeGo-related product would be a tablet or some other kind of device.
Nokia also announced a company reorganisation. A new Smart Devices business will concentrate on high-end Symbian and MeeGo, while a Mobile Phones unit will deal with the mass-market.
The company told its investors that it "expects 2011 and 2012 to be transition years, as the company invests to build the planned winning ecosystem with Microsoft".