Nokia, Microsoft announcing partnership next week, possibly involving Windows Phone 7?

As Nokia comes up on Capital Markets Day next Friday -- an event where the company has historically unveiled interesting things and launched important initiatives -- rumors are once again swirling that they're going to be announcing a major platform shift by way of a competitor. Both Android and Windows Mobile have come up in the past on multiple occasions, owing in no small part to the fact that Nokia's had an outward appearance of spinning its platform wheels on the backs of Symbian and Maemo for far, far too long, but so far, nothing's materialized. This time around, it's said that Microsoft will be the partner announced on the 11th -- and though Nokia's uptake of Windows Phone 7 would be the obvious strategic shift, it's important to note that these companies have actually partnered before with pretty trivial consequences for the market; it's entirely possible they could be ramping up to do that again, sharing apps and services between Windows Phone 7 and Symbian / MeeGo. We doubt it, but it's within the realm of reason.

But turning our attention back to the major platform shift, there are a couple factors that add a little more credibility to the rumor this time. First off, the elephant in the room: recently-appointed CEO Stephen Elop comes from Microsoft on good terms and has clearly been given marching orders to take Nokia in a new, more profitable direction; the Symbian Foundation's gutting happened on Elop's watch, for example, and he just hinted a few days ago that joining an existing ecosystem could make sense. More importantly, though, we've got a trusted source of our own who's now saying that the tide has turned and this appears to be happening at Capital Markets Day -- and that one of Nokia's existing platforms will be dropped as a direct result. It's hard to pick which one that'd be: Symbian, though terribly out-of-date, is still wildly popular in Europe and emerging markets, while MeeGo is technically promising but has yet to make any impact in the market whatsoever. On the flipside, noted Microsoft pundit Mary Jo Foley doesn't put a lot of stock in this latest round of rumors.

So, here's the question: can Nokia become another Samsung, LG, or HTC, betting its hopes and dreams on its chops as a hardware manufacturer alone? Historically, Nokia has been defined as much (if not more) by its platforms than by its hardware, which lacks Samsung's capability for end-to-end in-house sourcing. Regardless of what happens next Friday, this should all make for a very interesting MWC indeed.