Perhaps unsurprisingly, given it's set to be taken over completely by Microsoft later this year, Nokia has been promoting its relationship with the Windows-maker strongly of late, and it has added to that this week with an appearance at Microsoft's annual Build conference. But this wasn't just to get a quick look around the new office, as Nokia was also unveiling three phones running the Windows platform and laying out some more of its intentions for the future of the company.
Even before the deal to bring Nokia fully into the Microsoft fold was announced last year, the two firms had been working closely, with Nokia putting Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system at the heart of its turnaround strategy, after its own Symbian system failed to impress consumers and saw itself kicked out of the marketplace by the heavy boots of iOS and Android.
At the time, the smart money may have been on Nokia following in the footsteps of so many other makers and embracing Google's open-source system. But instead, its deal with Microsoft was a big signal of intent from both firms – which had been somewhat left behind in the chaotic scramble of the early days of the smartphone.
And it seems to be paying off, as Nokia has been able to re-establish a unique identity in an increasingly-crowded market, while Microsoft is slowly but surely building up its market share from its previous position of almost nothing.
New devices, better experiences?
To take this partnership further, Nokia unveiled three new Windows-based smartphones at this week's conference. These are the flagship Lumia 930, which promises to offer the very best of both Microsoft and Nokia for "the ultimate video and imaging experience" and the affordable Lumia 630 and 635.
The Lumia 930 is set for a June launch with a price of $599 (£360), which pitches it a little below top-of-the-line devices from the likes of Samsung and Apple, as well as the most expensive models in the Lumia range, such as the 1520. It should still pack a punch though, with its 2.2GHz quad-core processor and 20MP Pureview camera.
Meanwhile, the Lumia 630 and 635 with be available in May, priced at $159 and $189 respectively. Nokia promises "the same high-end experiences as high-end Lumia smartphones", so they could be a great choice for people who want a powerful device without the price tag.
The best of Windows
But that's not all. From this summer, all Nokia devices are also scheduled to get an upgrade to their software that will see Microsoft's latest Windows 8.1 operating system brought to the gadgets. This will aim to ensure Nokia users can take advantage of all the latest tweaks and changes Microsoft has made to its Windows 8 platform since its less-than-enthusiastic reception among PC users last year.
Smartphone owners are promised improvements to the Live Tiles systems that will let them see more details at a glance and access their Notification Center with one easy swipe. Starting in the US, users will also begin to have access to Microsoft's Cortana virtual assistant – which the company is hoping will be a feature that shows Apple's Siri how voice-activated, intelligent software should be done.
Nokia boss Stephen Elop told an audience at the Build conference: "The Lumia device that you probably have in your pocket right now gets better with Windows Phone 8.1." He added one thing that's setting Nokia apart from its rivals it that it will be bringing the latest innovations such as this to all devices – regardless of their price points.
"Go check out your low-priced Android devices and see if they're getting the latest innovation that's coming out of Google, and the answer of course is no. So we're very, very proud to be able to take that innovation to those price points," he said.
A third option for the smartphone market?
Nokia will be hoping that its new range of powerful gadgets across all parts of the smartphone market and the addition of Windows 8.1 to these will help encourage customers who would otherwise be sticking with their Android or iOS devices to check out what the firm has to offer – and in doing do cement the ecosystems' position as a viable third way for people that don't want Apple or Google in every aspect of their lives.
Building a successful third ecosystem for the smartphone market could be good news for everyone, as it will give consumers more choice and stoke up competition among hardware makers and app developers. So far, the progress of Windows Phone has been steady rather than spectacular, but if it can continue to make inroads, the future's bright for Nokia.