Partnering with Nokia will accelerate the adoption of the Windows Phone platform and drive volumes, according to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Ballmer yesterday gave the Mobile World Congress a detailed progress report on WP7, outlined the advances coming later this year and, together with Nokia chief Stephen Elop, explained the reasons behind the new partnership with the Finnish vendor.
Both men talked of the opening of a third ecosystem that will give consumers more hardware choices and additional, innovative, services.
Elop said the two companies represent a "natural partnership" that is complementary, matching Nokia's iconic devices and industry design capabilities with Microsoft's "leading operating system for the future" and backend services.
He noted that the alliance, with its global reach, gives them the opportunity to deliver a broad range of devices across the world, but most importantly it would allow them to turn out products that are more competitive.
Ballmer said that four months after launch, Microsoft’s Marketplace app store has 8,000 apps; 30,000 registered developers; and has racked up a million downloads of its visual studio toolkit for developers.
"All of this bears promise for the interesting things you'll see on the phone. We're off to a strong start, but we know we have a lot of work to do. The Windows Phone platform, like any other healthy platform, will only thrive with scale and variety," he said.
"We're going to work with our partners to bring their innovations more rapidly into our platform while also working to ensure that their innovations don't lead to the kind of fragmentation for developers that other platforms in the phone arena are currently experiencing."
Ballmer said Nokia's maps and LBS technologies will be used broadly in Bing - not just on Nokia Windows Phones, but in Bing services across all platforms.
WP program corporate vice president Joe Belfiore outlined a number of the advances coming to Windows Phone 7 later this year. He did not specify a time frame, but analysts reckon they won’t arrive until 3Q.
New features include multitasking for third-party apps, access to Twitter in the "People" hub, an enhanced IE9 browser running the same core engine as the PC version and compatible with HTML 5, and support for saving 25Gb of documents on SkyDrive.
Ballmer said a copy-and-paste function will be added in a free upgrade next month.