Microsoft's smartphone experiment with Android has come to an end.
Nokia's X smartphone line got a passing mention in Stephen Elop's memo to the troops about Microsoft's 18,000 job restructuring on Thursday. The upshot: Microsoft allowed Nokia to develop Android phones for emerging markets, recruited developers, and launched a second version of the devices even though it most likely knew the shelf life was short.
Why fake the Android interest?
Here's what Elop, executive vice president of Microsoft's devices unit, said in his memo:
We will be particularly focused on making the market for Windows Phone. In the near term, we plan to drive Windows Phone volume by targeting the more affordable smartphone segments, which are the fastest growing segments of the market, with Lumia. In addition to the portfolio already planned, we plan to deliver additional lower-cost Lumia devices by shifting select future Nokia X designs and products to Windows Phone devices. We expect to make this shift immediately while continuing to sell and support existing Nokia X products.
In other words, Nokia X phones are basically a collector's item. Say what you will about Microsoft's handling of the Kin phone, which crashed quickly, but the company did pull the rip cord early.
Elop continued to note in his memo that Microsoft and Nokia will be more high-end focused. He said:
We expect these changes to have an impact to our team structure. With our focus, we plan to consolidate the former Smart Devices and Mobile Phones business units into one phone business unit that is responsible for all of our phone efforts. Under the plan, the phone business unit will be led by Jo Harlow with key members from both the Smart Devices and Mobile Phones teams in the management team. This team will be responsible for the success of our Lumia products, the transition of select future Nokia X products to Lumia and for the ongoing operation of the first phone business.
The Nokia move to launch an Android-yet-Windows skinned phone was interesting — if not completely nutty — but you had to see this move coming. Microsoft didn't buy Nokia to give Android a lift. However, the big question here is whether Microsoft's platform can gain traction in emerging markets where Android plays well. We're about to find out. Microsoft will have to play the low-end of the market if it wants customers to ultimately trade up to those high-end Lumias.