microsoft-nokiaMicrosoft and Nokia announced today that, as expected, they will be working together to bring native versions of Microsoft Office to Nokia smartphones. But this is about more than just creating a version of Office for Nokia — the companies say they are working together on the “design, development and marketing of productivity solutions for the mobile professional.”

In a conference call discussing the news, Microsoft’s Stephen Elop (pictured, right) said this is the first time the software giant has developed rich mobile applications for platform other than its Windows Mobile operating system. Over time, the companies plan to release applications for Nokia phones (using the Symbian operating system) that 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

After hearing rumors about the deal, I wrote that the move would make sense for Microsoft as a way to get Office onto more smartphones. I also speculated that that a deal with Nokia could be followed by similar deals with other mobile companies, such as BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion. But Nokia and Microsoft are pitching this as a unique alliance, and a way for them to compete with other mobile platforms. Of course, Nokia is the easiest target for Microsoft. Edging on to the popular smartphone platforms managed by Google (Android) and Apple (iPhone) will prove a lot tougher, given the tensions between Microsoft and these two companies. But even then, don’t count out such a move.

“This is about creating a formidable challenge for RIM, more than anyone else,” said Kai Öistämö, executive vice president for Nokia Devices (pictured, left).

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