Yahoo and Nokia's Project Nike Partnership Seeks World Domination, Apple Rivary [Updated]

yahoo nokiaToday's hot rumor is that Yahoo and Nokia are poised to announce a partnership deal on Monday next week, with the goal of reinjecting some spice into Nokia's phones and giving Yahoo a bigger audience. But really, it's all about Apple.

Yahoo sent out a high-profile invitation to select members of the tech press inviting them to a meeting on Monday at which Yahoo's CEO Carol Bartz will reveal an "exciting announcement about providing global consumers with rich online and mobile experiences." The event will also show how Yahoo can begin "a new era in keeping consumers connected." The good folks at AllThingsD weren't content to wait and discovered that Monday is the reveal date for Project Nike.

No, not the shoemakers. The Greek goddess of victory. AllThingsD's sources explained that the project is a big deal that's been brewing between Yahoo and Nokia, the world's biggest manufacturer of cell phones. Essentially Yahoo's search, email, and other services (presumably including Yahoo messenger, which may explain the "connected consumers" bit of the press invite) will be built into some of Nokia's future phones. Apparently this sort of partnership has been on the cards for a while, but the two companies never quite went the whole distance.

Why now, then? It's obvious that Nokia's looking for some of that traffic goodness and big-name Web PR that Yahoo has to stir up its slightly stagnant smartphone business, and that Yahoo's hoping to leverage the huge sales rate Nokia has to get its services (and thus paid advertising) in front of more consumer's eyeballs. But the timing may appear a little curious--until you remember what Apple's been up to. Its iPhone is still surging ahead (and the next all-singing and dancing edition is due imminently), its music system is capturing ever-bigger chunks of the U.S. market, its iPad is redefining a genre of computing, and this is putting Apple bang in the middle of the limelight.

Yahoo is trying to establish a firmer foothold before Apple's business gets any bigger. And it's chosen to do so by partnering with a big tech manufacturer. Which, curiously enough, is a route that Google's also chosen to follow with its partnerships with Sony and Intel in the Google TV initiative. Is the only option for beating Apple for the other big names to team-up? Seems so!

Update: Nokia and Yahoo have just announced the deal formally. And, yup--it's pretty much what we'd expected. A lot a co-branding, a lot of helping each other out with problem markets (the US for Nokia, mapping tech for Yahoo) and so on. You can read the Yahoo press release on the news here.

To keep up with this news follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter. That QR code on the left will take your smartphone to my Twitter feed too.

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