MS, Nokia in Valentine's Day headline bid

Or suicide pact, depending on how you look at it

3GSM Nokia and Microsoft signed two significant deals today, with Nokia's executive VP for enterprise, Mary McDowell, hinting that there would be more to come.

Nokia is partnering with Loudeye to allow carriers to build branded DRM music download services. As part of the deal, Nokia phones will play back Windows Media files, but only through a complex transcoding which takes a Windows Media file and converts it to an AAC format.

When it comes to music, said a Microsoft executive in Cannes today, "We should not have borders or barriers." Quite right, although the DRM regime that Microsoft puts in the user's way is all about barriers. A sweaty executive called Michael Nash from Warner Brothers Music apologized for not being present to bless the partnership - "I'm at the Grammys!", he said - and didn't blink once.

Long term Nokia has been doing some serious thinking about digital downloads, and must be prepared to weather the poor reception such a clunky arrangement will surely meet.

More significantly for enterprise users, Nokia will license Microsoft's ActiveSync software. This didn't lessen Nokia's commitment to SyncML, or its relationships with third party providers such as Good, McDowell insisted. More details are expected to follow on the eleventh-hour deal.

Nokia had lobbied hard for Microsoft to open its communications protocols through the EU. Now it's a licensee, the ActiveSync agreement removes a major motivation for businesses choosing Microsoft smartphones. ®

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