The target release date of the first Nokia smartphone to use Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system could be set within days, with the company aiming to have it on the market this year, senior executives said Sunday.
Speaking on the eve of the mobile phone industry's annual get-together in Barcelona, Nokia chief Stephen Elop defended the tie-up with the US software giant, saying it would bring billions in value to the Finnish company, which has seen its market share squeezed by Apple's iPhone and phones using Google's Android operating system.
Nokia and Microsoft technical teams "are working together next week to solidify the timing of the first Nokia Windows Phone product," said Jo Harlow, Nokia's executive vice president in charge of smart devices.
Speaking two days after the announcement of the smartphone tie-up between the two IT giants, Harlow told journalists she could not yet name a date for handset's release.
"But my boss has told me he would be much happier if that time was in 2011," she said alongside Elop.
The world's top mobile phone maker unveiled on Friday week a radical new strategy by partnering with Microsoft, under which Nokia smartphones will be adopting Microsoft's phone platform and its own Symbian operating system will be eventually phased out.
Nokia has been unable to respond to the rise of Apple's iPhone and Google's Android operating system on its own.
Technology research firm Gartner said Wednesday Nokia's global market share had tumbled to 28.9 percent in 2010 from 36.4 percent in 2009, having once topped 40 percent.
Elop said that by passing up Google for Microsoft "we create an environment where now Windows Phone is a challenger. We have created ... a three horse race" in the smartphone operating system marketplace.
He said Nokia would provide a "swing factor" to encourage developers to create applications for Windows Phone and they would seek to manage the transition to bring its massive base of satisfied Symbian customers to the new devices.
More than 1.5 million smartphones running on the latest version of Windows Phone, WP7, were shipped in the six weeks after the launch in October but Microsoft's share of the market was only about three percent at the end of the year.
Elop said Nokia also had the specific technical and hardware and differentiated capabilities that will ensure Nokia Windows Phone products are great products.
Had Nokia opted for Android then a duopoly of Android and iPhone would likely have developed, said Elop, adding that all players in the market would benefit from having three competing operating systems to drive innovation.
He said that being part of a large, competitive smartphone "ecosystem" would bring incredible value to Nokia.
"For all the unique elements that Nokia is contributing including the swing factor, including the decision to make Windows Phone a challenger, Microsoft is contributing to Nokia substantial monetary value," said Elop.
This "value transferred to Nokia is measured in the b's (billions), not m's (millions)," he added.
A former Microsoft executive, Canadian Elop took over as the first non-Finnish CEO in September and was at pains to insist "I am not a Trojan horse."
He said the company's management team took the decision on the partnership with Microsoft and the final go-ahead was given by Nokia's board of directors.
Elop also said a possible takeover of Nokia by Microsoft was never discussed.