Microsoft and Apple have signed an agreement to merge into one company, as the tech giants seek to expand their digital empires beyond the US.
The announcement, made by Microsoft’s Phil Schiller on Wednesday, comes after a meeting between Microsoft’s chief executive and Apple’s Tim Cook in San Francisco last month.
Apple has been building its own digital operations for years, but its biggest rivals are also now building out their own digital capabilities.
Microsoft’s Cook told reporters during the press conference that the company had “no doubt” it would win a future merger.
Apple’s Cook is Microsoft’s top executive.
In a statement, Cook said that he had “very high expectations” that Microsoft and its new acquisition would “deliver the kind of strategic, business-to-business partnership we have been looking for.”
Apple and its own hardware businesses have been growing rapidly, especially its own smartphones, and the two companies have recently been competing against each other in the burgeoning market for cloud-based computing.
Microsoft and Microsoft’s own products are used in about 70 percent of Apple’s devices worldwide, according to a report by research firm IDC last year.
Apple, however, is the only other tech giant with an enterprise-focused business, with a core focus on consumer devices.
The two companies said they were building out “a new suite of products” that would be part of the Microsoft-Apple alliance.
They also said that they would be “delivering new services” that “will enable consumers to work more collaboratively, discover and share their ideas, and connect with one another.”
Cook said the agreement was “part of a global effort” to “ensure we remain relevant and connected.”
He added that “all of our products and services will continue to be designed to make sure our customers have the best experience, and to make it easier for them to communicate with us.”
Cook also announced that the two sides will be working on “a suite of technologies and services” to help “developer partners create innovative products and experiences,” a statement that echoed the Microsoft CEO’s remarks during the meeting with Cook.
“We’re excited to join forces and accelerate our efforts to create new products and to drive innovation across our combined businesses,” Cook said.
Microsoft will “continue to develop new products for our partners, including Xbox, Surface and Office,” Cook added.
Apple is also looking to move away from Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system, which was developed in the company’s Redmond, Washington, campus.
Cook said Microsoft would focus on bringing its own apps and services to Windows 8, rather than focusing on creating apps and making Windows 8 itself more appealing to enterprise customers.
Apple will also build its own products for the Windows Store, Cook added, adding that “we will be developing and delivering new apps for our Windows Store.”
“Our products are built around enterprise capabilities and we want to ensure we continue to deliver these capabilities to our customers,” Cook told the press.
Cook also said Microsoft will continue “developing new tools and services that will enable businesses to create great workarounds for Windows 7 and Windows 8 problems.”
The deal is a sign of how Microsoft is trying to expand its digital footprint beyond its home turf.
Apple first entered the digital business in 2007, when it acquired a slew of digital assets from rival Microsoft.
In its most recent fiscal year, Microsoft reported that it sold $3.9 billion worth of devices and services.
Cook, who is Apple’s CEO, will take over the helm of Microsoft’s Devices and Services group, and he will report directly to Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s founder and CEO.
Microsoft has also been looking to expand beyond its own home turf, with its acquisition of Skype for $17.4 billion in 2011.