PERHAPS THE MOST SURPRISING THING that was revealed on Monday afternoon about Microsoft's recently completed buyout of Nokia's mobile devices business is that the Redmond firm still doesn't know what it's going to call the brand.
Now former Nokia CEO and EVP of the new Microsoft Devices division Stephen Elop answered questions in an "Ask Me Anything" on Nokia's website yesterday, and the issue of branding was the first question he took.
He said, "Microsoft Mobile Oy is a legal construct that was created to facilitate the merger. It is not a brand that will be seen by consumers." He acknowledged that Microsoft has the right to use the Nokia brand for the next 10 years, but said, "Nokia as a brand will not be used for long." Instead, he added, "Work is underway to select the go forward smartphone brand."
Oy indeed (which means "Ltd" in Finnish). During more than six months since it announced the buyout, Microsoft hasn't been able to decide on a new brand name for Nokia devices?
Okay, maybe it's a really tough decision, as the brand "Windows Phone" hasn't exactly set the world alight, nor did "Windows Mobile" before it, and the most obvious choices leave something to be desired. Admittedly "Nokiasoft" doesn't have much of a ring to it, and the name "Mickia" would be laughable, not to mention likely to raise legal hackles at The Walt Disney Company - despite being maybe the most apt name Microsoft could choose for its future Nokia devices brand.
Perhaps Microsoft was distracted in the interim by changing its CEO.
Elop also revealed that Nokia chose Windows Phone to replace its Symbian mobile operating system rather than Android because it was scared of Samsung's looming market dominance. He said, "When we made the decision to focus on Windows Phone back in 2011, we were very concerned that a decision to pursue Android would put us on a collision course with Samsung, who already had established a head of steam around Android.
"That was the right decision, as we have seen virtually all other OEMs from those days pushed to the side."
He faced a couple of critical comments, as well. One questioner wrote, "You're so cool killed Nokia... Thanks to you, Meego, Symbian, Meltemi buried... Once you get it all comes back to haunt."
Elop replied, "Thanks, I know that there is a lot of emotion around some of the hard decisions that we had to make.
"Back in late 2010 and 2011, we carefully assessed the state of the internal Nokia operating system efforts. Unfortunately, we could not see a way that Symbian could be brought to a competitive level with, for example, the iPhone that had shipped THREE years earlier!
"And the Meego effort was significantly delayed and did not have the promise of a broad enough portfolio soon enough. We had to make a forceful decision to give Nokia the chance to compete again."
Another commenter asked, "[...] you have [been] bashed very harshly with your efforts to take Nokia to Microsoft, have been awarded as Trojan in online discussions and comments. Do you take any effect of all this on your work/decision?"
Responding to this, Elop claimed, "As a result of the work that we have done, we have transformed Nokia into a stronger company with NSN, Here and Advanced Technologies. At the same time, our Devices and Services business has a new opportunity within a stronger Microsoft."
He added, "As for the Trojan horse thing, I have only ever worked on behalf of and for the benefit of Nokia shareholders while at Nokia. Additionally, all fundamental business and strategy decisions were made with the support and approval of the Nokia board of directors, of which I was a member."
Not everyone who read the discussion was convinced, however. In the comments that followed, one person quoted Elop's reply, "As for the Trojan horse thing, I have only ever worked on behalf of and for the benefit of Nokia shareholders while at Nokia." He added, "Of course you have. And I'm Santa Claus." µ