Last Friday, just in time for Valentine’s day, Nokia announced it is to partner with Microsoft to create a smartphone platform capable of challenging the Apple iPhone and Google Android.

The market’s initial reaction to the news was not good. Nokia’s shares fell by 14%, and Jason Hiner at TechRepublic described the deal as ‘two fading marathon runners holding hands to cross the finishing line’.

Once the darling of the mobile phone industry, Nokia has been struggling of late to keep pace with its competitors, especially in the fast-growing smartphone market, where Nokia’s Symbian platform appears to have run its course. Nokia does not have the ‘sexy’ brand appeal and slick user experience delivered of Apple, nor the advantages of Android’s open source development environment.

So will the former undisputed heavyweight mobile champion’s partnership with Microsoft enable it to regain ground lost to its younger, more athletic rivals? Certainly, it will be no easy task for the punch-drunk Nokia, considering the size of the lead established by Apple and Android.

Nokia has already said it will not be cutting back on its R&D spend for the new phones planned under its Microsoft partnership, but will it be prepared to match this with its marketing spend, especially given the massive investment made by its biggest competitors? As with many of the major technology brands, striking the ideal balance can be the difference between a thrilling victory, and crushing defeat.

I for one am looking forward to seeing whether these two fading stars of the mobile industry will be able to turn a two-man slug-fest into a three-horse race.

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