Microsoft and Nokia announced a broad ranging alliance this morning which will bring Microsoft Office and other productivity software to a Nokia phones. The agreement marks “the first time Microsoft will make Office for non windows mobile phones,” says Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop. There are 200 million Nokia smart phones out there, and Microsoft wants its software on all of them eventually.
But initially, the alliance is targeting enterprise customers and will be integrated into Nokia’s E Series business phones. The Microsoft software and features that will be ported to Nokia phones include:
The ability to view, edit, create and share Office documents on more devices in more places with mobile-optimized versions of Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft OneNote
Enterprise instant messaging and presence, and optimized conferencing and collaboration experience with Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile
Mobile access to intranet and extranet portals built on Microsoft SharePoint Server
Enterprise device management with Microsoft System Center
But the alliance aims to go “way beyond email and Office,” says Nokia’s Executive Vice President for Devices Kai Öistämö. Microsoft and Nokia are focusing on communication and productivity apps (Office, IM, Sharepoint, OneNote), but the alliance opens up those 200 million Nokia smart phones to future Mobile apps from Microsoft, perhaps including Mesh (which will sync all apps across all devices). Update: Unfortunately, the alliance is only for the Office business and does not include Mesh, according to Microsoft.
The alliance is an acknowledgment that Windows Mobile is not going to take over the world, and smartly extends the reach of Microsoft’s mobile apps to a huge new audience of mobile professionals. It also positions Microsoft and Nokia in an unholy alliance against the encroachments of the more modern iPhone and Android smart phones. It allows Microsoft to deeply integrate its mobile apps into Nokia phones in a way that might make them more appealing to corporate customers.
“This is not a browser discussion,” says Elop. These mobile applications will create “really rich experiences that bring that device to life.” The apps will start with email and productivity, but will be designed to drive collaboration through instant messaging, presence management, and call control. The alliance for now covers only Nokia phones with the Symbian operating system (not its newer Maemo phones), which lends to its dinosaur feel. It also suggests that Nokia has no intention of ditching Symbian any time soon.
But why do you need an “alliance” to create apps for a mobile computer/phone? Microsoft doesn’t need an alliance to create Office apps for Android or the iPhone because they are (relatively) open mobile platforms, although it hasn’t yet for strategic reasons. What this alliance highlights more than anything else is Symbian’s creaking age. And it’s too little, too late. Mobile Office can’t stave off Symbian’s inevitable decline.