Memos have been flying around like crazy over at Microsoft. Satya Nadella and Stephen “Hello there” Elop have been trying to synergize with their employees to maximize efficiency and leverage…whatever. It’s like a Weird Al song over there. Recently, Elop made it clear in no uncertain terms that Nokia’s devices and services division, now living under the Microsoft umbrella is no longer in the Android phone making business. Of course anyone who has even tangentially been paying attention to the smartphone landscape over the past few years should have seen this coming, but it does beg the question – is this the best idea for Microsoft?
On the face of it, it’s a no brainer. Microsoft is competing with Android in every way. Windows Phone is trying to make inroads in places where the Nokia X line of phones was targeted – emerging markets, the next billion or whatever you want to call all those customers just begging to buy. It simply doesn’t make sense for Microsoft to compete with itself. It’s healthy on the softball field, not so much in the boardroom.
After all, the only way to grow the Windows Phone brand is to do so by eliminating competition. Microsoft in this case happens to own some of the competition, so it’s easy enough to shut it down. All that great hardware that was in the pipeline to run the Nokia X line can just as easily be repurposed to run Windows Phone. So from a hardware/manufacturing standpoint, this is still a pretty easy call.
Microsoft is a software company, first and foremost. Its new philosophy of mobile first, cloud first can be served by grabbing a slice of the 80% Android pie. Plus Microsoft was doing it in a way that controlled the market it was trying to gain. By releasing a phone with what amounts to a Windows Phone skin, and by removing Google Play and Google services, Microsoft was in a position to build upon two of the biggest brands in smartphone world “Nokia” and “Android”. Plus it could do so in a way that wouldn’t compromise its position as a software services provider.
It’s true that a little hackery would result in Microsoft’s work being undone by a custom ROM and installation of the Google Play store. In fact, if not for the job loss, that’s probably about the only thing Joe Levi would miss with the Nokia X line being cut. But introducing a phone filled to the brim with Microsoft services, running on top of a Microsoft “skin” could have helped introduce Microsoft’s services to a large group of people who otherwise wouldn’t give it the time of day.
Never underestimate the power of “Android”. By that, I don’t mean the operating system. I mean the actual word “Android”. “Android” is a powerful name in and of itself and many users will undoubtedly start there when shopping for a phone. As the saying goes, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Microsoft could have done that, but in a way that preserved Microsoft’s vision.
Let’s be real here though. This is Android. This is Google’s mobile operating system. There was no way Microsoft was going to let this continue, skinned or no. And it’s for the very reason I just mentioned – a little bit of hackery and all of Microsoft’s brand and identity are gone. Then Microsoft is not helping itself at all. It’s basically doing Android One’s program for it. Microsoft would simply be providing quality hardware onto which a user could run a stock Android experience. The updates probably wouldn’t have been as timely, but did I not just describe Android One?
That is not what Microsoft signed up for. Why Nokia even bothered to pursue this project is really beyond comprehension. Why development of a second generation continued to the point where the hardware would need to be repurposed for Windows Phone is mind-boggling. Such is the way with larger corporations I suppose. There’s an argument to be made for keeping the Nokia X line of phones intact. I personally don’t think it’s a very strong argument, but we try to look at both sides of the issue on the weekend.
So, what do you think? Was Nokia crazy for thinking Microsoft would run with this? Was Microsoft crazy for not running with it? Sound off below and let’s see if we can figure this out.