Even though owning Nokia's devices business will make Microsoft the largest hardware Windows Phone player, Microsoft hopes to continue licensing the platform to other partners.
Microsoft's $7.2bn proposed acquisition of Nokia's device business, once approved, will make Redmond the largest Windows Phone hardware maker. While HTC, Samsung and Huawei all license the platform, they sell relatively few units bearing the OS.
"Today's announcement doesn't change that – acquiring Nokia's devices group will help make the market for all Windows Phones, from Microsoft or our OEM partners," Microsoft's EVP of operating systems, Terry Myerson wrote in a blogpost.
As Myerson notes, Microsoft's partners "bring innovation, diversity and scale to Windows", but when it comes to Windows Phone, only Nokia has delivered all three.
The only non-Nokia Windows Phone devices that register in numbers by ad network Ad Duplex is HTC's 8X, which accounts for four percent of Windows Phone 8 devices worldwide, followed by Samsung's Ativ S, which accounts for two percent. The other seven are Lumia devices, led by Nokia's low-end Lumia 520.
The acquisition may raise questions questions of fair play that Google faced after acquiring Motorola, but Myerson addressed this by countering that Microsoft treats all Windows OEM partners equally to its own hardware business.
"We collaborate with our Microsoft hardware teams in the same way we partner with our external hardware partners: we discreetly discuss technical and business opportunities, make shared bets, empower each other to do great work, and then operate closely together," he wrote.
In mobility, to date, that has only meant treating its Surface business the same as other tablet companies, but the proposition of licensing Windows Phone could be more awkward given Nokia's total dominance of Windows Phone mirrors Samsung's of Android.
Global coverage: Nokia Interim CEO: Microsoft deal makes us stronger | Even with Nokia devices, Microsoft wants to license Windows Phone to other makers | Does its Nokia buy thwart or fuel a possible Microsoft break-up? | Microsoft shows how to flush decades of Nokia goodwill away | Microsoft gets less than $10 per Windows Phone unit | Microsoft-Nokia deal: Reaction from the Twitter trenches | Elop drops Nokia CEO role to lead devices team under Microsoft deal | Microsoft-Nokia deal: 11 quick facts | Microsoft to buy Nokia's devices, services unit for $7.2B