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Neil Mawston of London-based Strategy Analytics said Microsoft was the big winner in the partnership, by teaming up with the biggest mobile hardware vendor in the world.

“In terms of expanding their distribution reach, this is a huge win for Microsoft,” he said.

For Nokia the deal leaves uncertainty about what will happen to its current Symbian operating platform. Mawston said he expects it to be phased out within two years and “completely, or at least mostly, replaced by Windows Phone.”

Although Nokia still is the mobile industry’s biggest handset maker, its market share has plummeted from a high of 41 percent in 2008 to 31 percent in the last quarter of 2010.

It has also lost its innovative edge in the fiercely competitive top-end sector and is virtually invisible — with a 3 percent share — in the world’s largest smart phone market, North America.

Apples’ iPhone has set the standard for today’s smart phones and Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerrys have become the favorite of the corporate set. More recently, Google Inc.’s Android software has emerged as the choice for phone makers that want to challenge the iPhone.

“Today, developers, operators and consumers want compelling mobile products, which include not only the device, but the software, services, applications and customer support that make a great experience,” Elop said.

He warned of further layoffs and restructuring, saying Nokia must “improve the speed and nimbleness and agility of the organization … by taking significant steps in how we operate.” He gave no details.

The company said it will announce a new leadership team and organizational structure “with a clear focus on speed, results and accountability.”

Nokia, which claims 1.3 billion daily users of its devices, said it hopes the “broad, strategic partnership” with Microsoft will lead to capturing the next billion users to join the Internet in developing growth markets.

Jyrki Ali-Yrkko, from the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy, described Nokia’s cooperation with Microsoft as “surprising.”

“The strengths will be in Microsoft’s strong position in various corporate solutions and server solutions, but its weakness is that Microsoft perhaps doesn’t have a broad, user-oriented group of developers like those around Android or Apple,” Ali-Yrkko said.