RealTime IT News

Nokia Trips the Silverlight Fantastic

In an interesting turn of events, Nokia announced Tuesday that it will make Microsoft's Silverlight streaming media technology available on its S60 Symbian OS-based smartphones this year – and will do the same for its Series 40 phones and Internet tablets as well.

The two companies plan to demonstrate Silverlight running on a Nokia S60 smartphone on Wednesday of this week at Microsoft's MIX08 Web developers in Las Vegas, according to a Nokia statement.

"The arrangement with Nokia will substantially extend the reach of Silverlight by making the platform available for hundreds of millions of devices," Nokia's statement said.

Silverlight is Microsoft's cross-browser, cross-platform media plug-in, which the company debuted last spring. Microsoft hopes to use Silverlight to displace Adobe's Flash technology on PCs and other devices.

However, Flash has been around since the mid-1990s and today is almost ubiquitous on PCs. Adobe also has deals with several mobile device makers, including Nokia, which offers a version called Flash Lite on its S60 smartphones.

Nokia's S60 phones run the Symbian mobile operating system with a Nokia-built custom user interface – previously referred to as Series 60. Besides offering its own line of mobile phones based on the system, Nokia also licenses S60 technologies to handset makers LG Electronics, Lenovo, and Samsung.

Microsoft introduced Silverlight almost a year ago, and shipped version 1 last summer. A developer-oriented release, recently renamed to version 2, is set to begin beta testing soon, Microsoft executives have said. Silverlight is expected to play a large part at this week's MIX08 conference.

Still, Microsoft's deal with Nokia is a watershed of sorts for the two companies, who have long had a face-off over their competing mobile operating systems – Microsoft with Windows Mobile and Nokia with its S60 and Series 40 systems.

The thawing began last summer when the two companies announced a version of Microsoft's Live services that runs on Nokia phones.

This new Nokia deal bodes well for Silverlight, even if it has to compete directly with Flash on phone handsets. That's because Nokia is, by far, the largest vendor of mobile phones in the world.

In fact, Nokia says that, by this January, it and other licensees had shipped 150 million S60 devices. Indeed, analysis firm Canalys announced last month that Nokia shipped some 60.5 million smartphones worldwide in calendar 2007.

"[Overall], Symbian leads on 67 percent share, followed by Microsoft on 13 percent, with RIM on 10 percent," according to a Canalys statement.

Although Google's Android was never mentioned in Nokia's Silverlight announcement, the company may have a reason to build alliances with old adversaries in order to block or stall the emerging mobile phone platform, due to its free stature and its adoption by the Open Handset Alliance. Android, which is based on Linux, debuted in November and is set for delivery sometime this year.

Nokia said it expects to offer Silverlight to S60 developers later this year with delivery to other S60 licensees soon thereafter. The company did not give a date for availability of Silverlight on Series 40 phones.