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Nokia smartphones to turn on Microsoft's Silverlight

Deal with largest smartphone manufacturer "an important win"

By Eric Lai
March 4, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft Corp. said Tuesday that it will deliver a version of its Silverlight media player for Nokia Corp.'s market-leading S60 platform for smartphones by the end of this year.

Microsoft will also develop a version of Silverlight to run on Nokia's older S40 platform, as well as Nokia's Internet tablets, according to John Case, product manager for Microsoft's developer tools.

Officially launched last September after months of hype, Silverlight is a cross-browser multimedia player similar to Adobe Systems Inc.'s dominant Flash player. It runs on Windows, Mac and, soon, Linux.

Microsoft is also working on a version of Silverlight for its Windows Mobile platform, for which a CTP will be out "in very short order," Case said.

But adding Nokia's S60, based on the Symbian OS, is a far bigger deal. Nokia is the largest smartphone maker today, shipping 53% of the 35.5 million smartphones sent out worldwide in Q4 2007, according to market research firm, Canalys Ltd.

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. had 11% of the market, while Apple Inc., which uses the Mac OS X for its iPhones, was tied with Motorola Corp. for third with 6.5%.

"This is actually an important win for Microsoft," wrote Jack Gold, an independent telecom analyst, in an e-mail. "Microsoft is clearly trying to gain traction against Flash, and since Nokia has a commanding lead in smartphone devices, this puts Microsoft on the map."

When ready, Silverlight will be installed on all of Nokia's new smartphones. Users with existing phones will also be to get CDs with the application or to simply download it from the Internet, Case said.

This "is fairly low risk for Nokia, and given their desire to be agnostic (supporting whatever the end user ultimately wants to use while on the Internet), it allows them to offer end-user choice and the ability to surf to the many sites that will ultimately support Silverlight," Gold said.

Adobe signed a similar deal with Nokia last fall for its Flash Lite player. Adobe said at the time that more than 300 million phones had shipped with Flash Lite. It hopes that by 2010, 1 billion mobile phones will have shipped with Flash Lite.

Adobe did not return a request for comment.

As the challenger to the incumbent Flash, Microsoft's goals are more modest. It is aiming for 200 million downloads of Silverlight across all platforms by the middle of this year.

The deal with Nokia, though it is unlikely to help much with Microsoft's near-term target, could help with future milestones.

Nokia has also licensed the S60 platform to other major makers of smartphones, which are generally defined to be mobile phones boasting color screens and multimedia capabilities. Those manufacturers include LG, Samsung, Panasonic and Siemens. All told, more than 150 million S60 devices had been shipped as of last month.

While Silverlight will run on non-Nokia S60-based phones if owners download it, the app won't come installed on the phones until Microsoft inks an OEM agreement with those companies, Case said. He promised that will happen.

Case today said that more than 8,000 Web applications using Silverlight are available today, though he declined to discuss them in advance of Microsoft's MIX conference starting in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Microsoft wants to encourage use of the Silverlight rich Internet application (RIA) platform in order to drive demand for closely-related Microsoft programming and design tools such as Visual Studio, Expression and others.

Adobe has a similar goal, pushing out its Adobe AIR and Flash platforms in order to drive sales of its back-end design tools.

Read more about Mobile/Wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.



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