BARCELONA: Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop kicked off Mobile World Congress 2011 by giving more details about the firm's partnership with Microsoft, and hinted that its first Windows Phone 7 device could land in 2011.
Elop explained that partnering with Android would have created a "duopoly" and that, by backing Windows Phone 7, the smartphone market will become a " three horse race" between Apple, Google and Microsoft.
"Our number-one priority is to compete with Android. We will [be investing] to help developers move to the Windows Phone platform," he said.
The Nokia chief also clarified the nature of the partnership with Microsoft, noting that there was no discussion of an acquisition and that the entire Nokia management team was involved in the decision.
Nokia will bring services such as Ovi Maps, Ovi app store, and new advertising options, together with great hardware, Elop explained. Microsoft, meanwhile, will contribute the Windows Phone 7 platform, Bing (in specific regions), X-Box integration and marketing.
Despite the positive statements from Nokia, the manufacturer was unable to give a firm shipping date for the first Windows Phone 7 device, instead teasing the audience with some concept designs.
Jo Harlow, senior vice president of smart devices at Nokia, hinted that the first device could arrive this year.
"We're not announcing any specific dates for that first product, but my boss [Elop] has made it clear that he would be a much happier if the first device arrived in 2011," she said.
Harlow also moved to clear up the issues surrounding Symbian, noting that Nokia will continue to make significant short-term investments in the platform so that "value can be harvested".
Nokia is confident of shipping another 150 million Symbian devices, and will introduce hardware, graphics and user interface improvements to aid the transition to Windows Phone 7 devices, she added.
Those looking forward to a MeeGo device were also given hope when Elop returned to the stage to announce that Nokia will be "sitting down" with Intel to chart a future course.
"We still believe it is important to launch the MeeGo device because it contains a series of new exciting technologies," he said.
Nick McQuire, EMEA research director for enterprise mobility at IDC, told V3.co.uk that he would have been surprised if Nokia had unveiled any devices at MWC.
"The market will expect some WP7 devices by this summer or by Nokia World in September at the latest," he said.
"I also think the three horse race is indeed wishful thinking especially since Elop failed to consider RIM, which will grow in influence this year."
McQuire also noted that while Symbian isn't dead, it is on "life support" and will ultimately be phased out of smartphones by Windows Phone 7. However, Symbian could still play a role in with series 60 and 40 handsets in the future, he added.
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