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Will Microsoft-Nokia alliance work in Korea?

Just a week ago at the world mobile trade show in Barcelona, global software giant Microsoft stunned many by announcing its alliance with Nokia, the world’s No. 1 handset maker.

Following the international event, Microsoft Korea told reporters in a media briefing in Seoul on Monday that the new Windows Phone 7 will be available here as early as October.

“Internally, we’re happy about our new alliance with Nokia,” said Kim Young-sam, leader of the mobile business group at Microsoft Korea. “We’ve decided to introduce the new Windows Phone 7 through the Nokia smartphone platform and all Nokia mobile phones will be presented as Windows Phone 7.”

He further explained that the establishment of the strategic partnership between the two firms will integrate Microsoft’s Marketplace and Nokia’s mobile application store to offer a “more compelling experience.”

“Considering the economy of scale, we believe Nokia will allow us to rise up in the competition,” he said.

According to the details of the partnership, Nokia will adopt Windows Phones for the company’s principal smartphone strategy and contribute its expertise on hardware design and language support.

The two are also expected to collaborate closely on joint marketing initiatives and a shared development roadmap.

“There are about 500 new features that are equipped in the next Windows Phone 7,” said Kim. “If you ask what the strongest point of the next Windows Phone 7 is, I would say it’s the social function.”

Windows Phone 7 has six different hubs ― among them particularly the People Hub ― which enable smartphone owners to easily catch up with their listed friends. It features the status updates of their friends through integration in its hub.

The social networking function has also been enhanced by introducing Twitter into its People Hub.

To complete the basics, the copy and paste functionality will be supported beginning in March and multitasking applications will also be available, he said.

It will improve business productivity by supporting Office documents in the cloud.

Internet Explorer 9, which aims to enhance the mobile Web browser experience, will also be introduced with the new Windows mobile coming to Korea in the latter half of this year, he said.

“Some say the launch of the Windows Phone 7 is a bit too late here and they also worry about the market share,” Kim said.

“Some others call our alliance with Nokia an ‘exclusive deal’ but we plan to do business in Korea not only with Nokia, but also with Samsung and LG Electronics. What we need at the moment is the market share to join the competition.”

He added that the primary partners for the Korean market are Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and HTC.

Local mobile manufacturers, such as Samsung and LG Electronics, welcomed the move, claiming it goes along with their multi-platform strategy.

“When considering Microsoft’s market potential, maintaining our partnership with Microsoft could become an opportunity. It means that choice range could further stretch out for us,” said an LG Electronics official.

An official at Samsung Electronics also said it is in talks with Microsoft to release the Windows Phone 7 to local consumers this year, adding that the launch fits the company’s multi-platform strategy. Samsung has launched smartphones powered by a number of mobile operating systems including Google’s Android, its proprietary platform Bada and Microsoft’s Office.

Some industry insiders, however, said that Microsoft has no other choice than to pick the three vendors as primary partners to successfully launch the next Windows Phone 7 here, especially because of Nokia’s weak local market share.

“The launch of Nokia’s Windows Phone 7 is possible when excluding the Korean market. A question mark remains here,” said an industry source.

(sharon@heraldcorp.com)
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