Nokia will offer several Microsoft applications for free on their latest Symbian Belle smartphone later this year, the Finnish company announced on Thursday.

The move comes at same time Nokia is building its first smartphone on the Windows "Mango" Phone platform, which could be released in November.

The free apps are designed to keep customers buying Nokia products while Nokia ramps up to Windows Phone smartphones.

The free apps for Symbian Belle phones will include:

 - Microsoft Lync 2010 Mobile for IM, presence, audio and Web meetings
 - Microsoft PowerPoint Broadcast for broadcasting presentations from a desktop to a smartphone
 - Microsoft OneNote for taking notes with images by syncing with Microsoft SkyDrive
 - Microsoft Document Connection, which provides a single view of documents stored on a smartphone including email attachments and documents on Microsoft SharePoint 2010 sites

Early next year, Nokia said it will provide OneNote synchronisation with SharePoint and will add Word, Excel and PowerPoint as native applications for the first time outside the Windows platform.

Some critics of Nokia's partnership with Microsoft wonder how successful Windows Phone Mango (version 7.5) will be and said the addition of Microsoft apps to Nokia's older Symbian line is a way for Nokia to hedge its bets if the Microsoft partnership doesn't pay off quickly.

The free productivity apps could also be a way to introduce a large number of Symbian users to Microsoft software. There are many more Symbian users outside the US than inside and Symbian until this year had been the world's largest smartphone platform.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said Nokia's free apps are "more about getting the Symbian audience ready to make the move to Windows Phone. It's a good way for Nokia and Microsoft to keep interest alive with users until the new Windows Mango phones are available."

Making the free apps available on the Symbian Belle phones doesn't cost either company much and the Belle phone users "get something to sweeten the deal to stay with Symbian," Gold said.

Nokia said the updates "are a confirmation that Nokia has not done making investments and introducing innovation into the Symbian platform," adding that Nokia will provide software support to Symbian until at least 2016.

"Symbian is hugely important to our future ambitions," the blog added. "With support for Symbian in the years to come, there's plenty of time to get used to some of the apps you may be using to take advantage of the new Nokia with Windows Phone smartphones."

There has already been a connection between Symbian Belle smartphone models and the expected Windows Mango Phone from Nokia. A leaked photo that purportedly showed Nokia's first Mango phone called the device the Nokia 703. It has a 3.7-in display, similar to one - code-named Sea Ray - shown by Nokia CEO Stephen Elop to employees.

Some bloggers theorised the 703 model number put the new phone in a class with Bell phones, with model numbers 700 and 701.