It's official: Microsoft and Nokia announce Windows Phone 7 partnership

Microsoft and Nokia have confirmed the two companies will work together to take Microsoft's recently released Windows Phone 7 operating system to the next level.

While the news won't come as a surprise to many, Microsoft says the strategic partnership will allow both companies to use their "complementary strengths" to create a new "global mobile ecosystem" which will almost certainly take Windows Phone 7 market share to a whole new level.

As part of the partnership, Nokia will make Windows Phone 7 their "principal smartphone strategy" (in other words, it's going to be their main operating system for all their phones) with plans to work in partnership with Microsoft on both software and hardware features, focusing first amongst other things on the Windows Phone 7's imaging capabilities. They'll also collaborate with Microsoft on marketing and the Windows Phone 7 roadmap, while assisting with hardware design and language support.

In a big win for Microsoft's search engine, Nokia will make Bing the default search engine across their range of mobile products, with Microsoft adCenter to power advertising on the service. On the flipside, Nokia will allow Microsoft to use their Nokia Maps technology, which will be integrated in turn into Bing and adCenter to "form a unique local search and advertising experience."

“I am excited about this partnership with Nokia,” Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO said in a statement today. “Ecosystems thrive when fueled by speed, innovation and scale. The partnership announced today provides incredible scale, vast expertise in hardware and software innovation and a proven ability to execute.”

Nokia's app store and content will be made available in the Windows Phone 7 marketplace, while Nokia's "extensive" operator billing agreements will allow Windows Phone 7 devices to be sold in countries where access to credit cards is low.

It's expected the deal -- which still needs to pass a number of regulatory approvals and checks before being finalized -- will see Windows Phone 7's market share grow considerably with devices available for potentially lower price points and with varying specifications, and could be the boost the relatively new entrant into the smartphone race needs to compete with the likes of Google's Android offering and Apple's iPhone.

Update: Nokia have now confirmed the company's Symbian software will become a "franchise platform", with MeeGo soon to be open sourced with an emphasis placed on "longer-term market exploration of next generation devices, platforms and user experiences." Nokia says they will still ship a MeeGo device later this year despite today's news.

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