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Microsoft and Nokia Team Up to Take On RIM

Microsoft and Nokia announced an alliance on Wednesday to bring business software to smartphones to counter the dominance of Research in Motion's BlackBerry.

The alliance between the world's largest software company and cellphone maker means the latest versions of Microsoft's Office applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and messaging, will be available on a range of Nokia handheld devices, which make up 45 percent of the smartphone market.

The two companies, at one time fierce rivals in the mobile telecommunications business, expect to offer Nokia phones running Office sometime next year.

"This is giving some of our competitors—let's spell it out, RIM—a run for their money," said Nokia Executive Vice President Robert Andersson, in a telephone interview. "I don't think BlackBerry has seen the kind of competition we can provide them now."

Research in Motion's BlackBerry created the market for mobile e-mail, and its dominant position in the corporate sector, especially in North America, has protected it from Nokia's attempts to crack the market in recent years.

The alliance also aims to counter Google's recent move into free online software, targeted at Microsoft's business customers, and the growing popularity of Apple Inc's iPhone device.

"It's clear that Nokia and Microsoft are both facing competitive challenges, most notably from Google," said John Jackson, an analyst at wireless research firm CCS Insight. "It makes sense for these two companies to work together to see if they can pool their competitive strengths to try and counter some of this pressure."

The alliance means Microsoft's new Office suite of applications could be available to a much wider audience. Nokia accounts for 45 percent of smartphones worldwide, according to research firm Gartner, with about 200 million users.

The two companies stressed that the new venture will not affect the future of Microsoft's Windows Mobile and Nokia's Symbian operating systems for smartphones. Executives said Nokia has no plans to make a Windows Mobile device.

"We are extremely committed to Symbian," said Andersson. This is very clear. This is a multi-year collaboration building on Symbian. We are as committed as before, if not more," he said.

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