Nokia CEO Stephen Elop and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer  (Source: Nokia)

The "third" ecosystem  (Source: Nokia)

Windows Phone 7 will now become Nokia's "primary smartphone platform"
Windows Phone will become Nokia's "primary smartphone platform"

We’ve been talking about it for the past few days, but Nokia and Microsoft made it official this morning – the two companies will enter into a “strategic partnership” when it comes to smartphones. There are a lot of things going on with this announcement, so let’s get one thing out in the open right away – Nokia will not be abandoning its Symbian and MeeGo efforts, at least in the short term.

That being said, Nokia will adopt Windows Phone 7 as its “primary smartphone platform” from this moment forward.  Here's a list of things that will happen under this new guidance that will build a new "global mobile ecosystem" around Windows Phone 7:

  • Nokia will have the freedom to provide its own customizations on top of the existing Windows Phone 7 interface.
  • Microsoft’s Bing search engine will become integrated into Nokia devices and services. Although it's not directly stated, we’re assuming that this will include not only Nokia's Windows Phone 7 devices, but also those running Symbian and MeeGo. Microsoft's adCenter platform will also find its way to Nokia devices.
  • Nokia Ovi Maps will now be integrated with Microsoft's current mapping efforts.
  • Nokia will work with Microsoft to lend a hand in hardware design and language support to help "define the future of Windows Phone", and bring it to more price points and market segments.
  • Nokia application store will be integrated with the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Given that Stephen Elop, Nokia's current President and CEO, was a high-ranking Microsoft executive just a few months ago, we're wondering just how long this move has been in the works. Although no one envisioned that Elop's new position at Nokia would lead to such a drastic shift in smartphone strategy that links him back to his former employer, both companies seem to think that this new alliance will shake up the current smartphone race.

"Nokia is at a critical juncture, where significant change is necessary and inevitable in our journey forward,” said Elop. "Today, we are accelerating that change through a new path, aimed at regaining our smartphone leadership, reinforcing our mobile device platform and realizing our investments in the future.

“Today, developers, operators and consumers want compelling mobile products, which include not only the device, but the software, services, applications and customer support that make a great experience. Nokia and Microsoft will combine our strengths to deliver an ecosystem with unrivaled global reach and scale. It’s now a three-horse race.”

We can only assuming that by three-horse race that Elop is talking about the new Nokia/Microsoft alliance along with the other two juggernauts in the smartphone race -- Apple's iPhone/iOS and Google's Android platform. RIM and HP/Palm need not apply in Elop’s eyes. 

And we of course can't have such a big announcement coming from the Microsoft camp without having a statement from Steve Ballmer.  “I am excited about this partnership with Nokia,” added Ballmer. “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.”

This shakeup also means that there will be some changes to Nokia's executive structure. While we won't detail all of the shuffling that's going on (you can read about it here), we'll mention this key change. Jo Harlow will lead Nokia's new Smart Devices division starting April 1. Smart Devices will encompass Windows Phone, Symbian, and MeeGo devices. Nokia plans to keep Symbian as a franchise platform and expects to add another 150 million Symbian devices to its current 200 million-device installed base. 

As for MeeGo, it will become an open-source mobile OS project that will "place increased emphasis on longer-term market exploration of next-generation devices, platforms and user experiences."

Nokia plans to ship just one MeeGo device this year. 

This is all a lot to swallow right now and it will surely be a while before Nokia as a company is comfortable in its new shoes. Nokia's fans have quite a bit to look forward too now that Microsoft is onboard, as the company's current offerings are stagnating in the marketplace.

We'll leave you with this closing statement from an open letter that Elop and Ballmer posted to the Nokia Conversations blog:

There are other mobile ecosystems. We will disrupt them.

There will be challenges. We will overcome them.

Success requires speed. We will be swift.

Together, we see the opportunity, and we have the will, the resources and the drive to succeed.

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