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Nokia to use Microsoft's Windows Phone in taking on Android, BlackBerry, iPhone

February 11, 2011 | 10:27 am

Elop and Ballmer

Nokia is set to pair its hardware with Microsoft's Windows Phone software in an effort to fend off the increasing success and competition from its rivals; Apple's iPhone, Google's Android operating system and Research In Motion's BlackBerry handsets.

The Finnish company made the widely expected decision official on Friday morning during a London news conference. 

"The entire smart phone market is growing rapidly, and we should be setting the pace," said Nokia Chief Executive Stephen Elop. "The game has changed. The game has changed from a battle of devices to a war of ecosystems."

In a Nokia internal memo leaked to the media Wednesday, Elop used much more dramatic language, writing that the company was "standing on a burning platform" with "more than one explosion -- we have multiple points of scorching heat that are fuelling a blazing fire around us."

Microsoft's Windows Phone software, currently in its seventh iteration, will replace Nokia's Symbian operating system on the majority of handsets from the company after the two firms complete a partnership agreement, Elop said.

Neither Nokia or Microsoft offered any specifics dates on when the agreement between the two tech giants would be finalized or when the first Nokia Windows Phone would hit retail, though Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the process had begun.

"We're already working together to create the first Nokia Window's phones, and we've reached out to chip vendors, mobile operators and developers, and you'll hear more from us in all of those areas over the next weeks and months," Ballmer said.

The agreement will also give Microsoft access to Nokia's worldwide mapping and navigation services and access to large cellphone carriers in international markets that it hasn't had before, Elop and Ballmer said in a statement.

"In this partnership with Nokia, Microsoft brings its Windows Phone software and the brands mobile consumers want like Bing, Office and of course Xbox Live," Ballmer said Friday.

Nokia's mapping and navigation technology will be integrated into Microsoft's mapping services, such as maps used in the Bing search engine, and Microsoft's adCenter business will also sell and distribute ads across Nokia phones, the companies said.

Although Nokia is choosing Windows Phone 7 as its main strategy in smart phones, the company made clear that it is not planning to completely abandon its Symbian and under-development MeeGo operating systems.

Once the "long-term strategic alliance" is finalized, it will end up as a major departure from Nokia's past strategy in the smart-phone market, which had the home-grown Symbian at the core.

In January, Android dethroned Symbian as the world's most used smart-phone operating system -- a title Symbian had held since the inception of the market about a decade ago. Google's Android OS is comparatively young, having debuted in 2008.

Elop is fairly new to Nokia, having been hired as CEO last September from a senior executive position at Microsoft. He is also the first non-Finnish citizen to run Nokia, a company that is looking to him to turn around its large losses of market share in crucial markets such as the United States and Asia.

Nokia accounted for about 41% of the global mobile phone market in 2008, but that number fell to about 31% in 2010, according to the Associated Press. Despite the falling numbers, Nokia remains the world's top seller of mobile phones.

Below is a video of the Nokia news conference with Elop and Balmer.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: Nokia CEO Stephen Elop (left) and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announce that Nokia will carry the Windows Phone as its main smart phone platform during a news conference Friday in London. Credit: Nokia / Getty Images

Video credit: NokiaConversations via YouTube

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