Microsoft shows how to flush decades of Nokia goodwill away

Microsoft shows how to flush decades of Nokia goodwill away

Summary: Many people have a soft spot for Nokia devices. It's a spot rarely found by Microsoft's consumer hardware.

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A company whose brand is known for great design and ruggedness has just been scratched off any upcoming Lumia phones. As part of Microsoft's deal for Nokia's devices and services division, the Redmond giant has picked up the Lumia brand, but Nokia as an entity and brand will continue to focus on its "advanced technologies".

Ask folks about their feelings toward Nokia, and they will be of praise and nostalgia. For many people, Nokia was one of the first mobile phones that they owned, and although they were sometimes a little quirky, they had a well-earned reputation for being indestructible, having an amazing battery life, and being very good at what they did.

They may have been merely feature phones, but the Nokia brand has the sort of goodwill that few mobile brands are able to engender. BlackBerry/RIM used to have it, Apple has had it ever since it entered the market, and Nokia possessed it.

One company that doesn't have it is Nokia's suitor: Microsoft.

Remember the short-lived Microsoft Kin?

What about Microsoft's courier tablet concept?

Perhaps you had yourself a Zune?

Or, in the past year, you may have acquired an underpowered tablet called the Surface RT.

For every Xbox that Microsoft has in its portfolio in recent history, there's a Kin or a Surface RT lurking on the next page.

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

As a mobile device manufacturer, Microsoft cannot afford to continue its habit of dropping the ball that often, as consumers will begin to avoid manufacturers that have burned them in the past. Now that it is entrenched in third place, Microsoft needs to maintain its momentum and keep its figurative foot on the gas.

Whereas a Nokia phone was always going to have great build quality, and lately arrive with a stonking good camera, Microsoft has no such history in mobile devices. The Lumia brand should help Redmond with its perception problems in the short term, but the larger question is what happens when certain aspects of Microsoft's corporate culture start to sink in?

Make no mistake, Nokia has been in trouble for a long time. From the day that Stephen Elop arrived as CEO of the company from Redmond, the question has always been when Microsoft would finish the job and deliver the coup de grace.

It was hardly a surprise that Elop decided to tie Nokia to his former employer by turning the Finnish device maker into a Windows Phone shop, but it was the wrong choice.

Nokia has spent the intervening years trying to regain its groove, and while recent data shows that Windows Phone purchases are on the rise, Nokia's burning platform has been largely reduced to a couple of ashen supports barely above water level.

At the time that Elop was busy cutting all non-Windows, non-Symbian development, a little handset arrived in the Asia-Pacific that showed there was something in Nokia's strategy pre-Elop.

That device was the dead-on-arrival N9, and for a Nokia phone of the time, the fact that it could deliver a "decent" experience was high praise indeed.

Some canny internet folk ran the numbers and said that the N9 was outselling Lumias despite the N9 not being available in many markets around the world. Whether the projected numbers were right or wrong, the fact that such a discussion could be had showed the self-inflicted pain that Nokia was delivering upon itself.

Being a MeeGo device, the N9 was Linux based, and hence much closer to an Android device than a Windows Phone.

We will never know what a properly supported Nokia Android device would have been like — but I suspect that it would have been an absolute stunner. Nokia build quality married to the world's most popular mobile operating system and running Nokia's suite of extended services and apps.

Samsung should be thanking its lucky stars that Elop steered Nokia in the direction he did. Instead of Nokia remaining a mobile juggernaut, the Finnish company has seen its market cap more than halve, and its market share has collapsed to single digits in many countries.

Now that the part of Nokia that it was most famous for, its hardware quality, is in the hands of Microsoft, the final husk of Nokia in the mobile realm will be as branding on Asha phones.

"Microsoft will acquire the Asha brand, and will license the Nokia brand for use with current Nokia mobile phone products," Microsoft said in its announcement of the deal.

"Nokia will continue to own and manage the Nokia brand. This element provides Microsoft with the opportunity to extend its service offerings to a far wider group around the world, while allowing Nokia's mobile phones to serve as an on-ramp to Windows Phone."

Poor Nokia: From undisputed mobile king to on-ramp in the space of half a decade.

The world is poorer for the removal of Nokia from the mobile ecosystem — but one could argue that Nokia removed itself when it hitched a ride on the exclusively Windows Phone train.

Today, Microsoft completed its transmogrification into a device and service company, but in the process, it has removed from its device that five-letter word in Nokia Sans that made it so special.

Such is the price for a future fully hardware and software integrated experience with Windows Phone. For Microsoft's sake, it had better be worth the sacrifice.

Topics: The Microsoft-Nokia Deal, Microsoft, Mobility, Nokia

About

Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

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56 comments
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  • Can I still buy a Kin?

    There were two Microsoft Kins (Kin 1 and Kin 2), just like there are two Microsoft Surfaces.

    Microsoft released countless tablet designs, not just the Courier concept.

    I'd like to buy a Kin, as it would now be a collector's item. Maybe I should just buy a Microsoft Surface tablet, and put it in my glass cabinet next to my Zune.
    Vbitrate
    • Probably can. The argument here is ridiculous.

      MS hardware has always been great. The mice and keyboards are industry best and put Logitech to shame. Life cam again top notch. Zunes were way better he than iPods before the Zune HD which completely blew the iPod out of the water. Surface again hands down the best quality tablet on the market. Blows the iPad away. The courier was never made, no one ever had a bad experience with one. As for Nokia and meego failing Microsoft had nothing to do with that. That happened pre windows phone. Good thing Nokia had the sense to choose the best mobile OS available instead of joining the race to the bottom like HTC. They now have the best smartphones on the market and are seeing their volume doubling every time the new stats come out.
      Johnny Vegas
      • dreaming again.

        You forget the 30% failure rate of the Xbox?
        You forget that the zunes aren't made anymore?
        You forget that the kins are dead?

        And the Meego wasn't failing - it was being developed. And MS ... Elop killed it. As well as killing the N9.

        As for being on the bottom like HTC... Aren't they?
        jessepollard
        • The N9 was doomed the minute they released it

          and you know it.
          sjaak327
          • Re: The N9 was doomed the minute they released it

            Why was it doomed?
            danbi
          • Re: Why was it doomed?

            Only by Elop's attempts to strangle it at birth. It got a rave reception in every single market where he allowed it to be (briefly) released. He even publicly said it was a dead-end. And yet it still sold.
            ldo17
          • It got a rave reception in every single market

            I own a N9, it's a great phone, the CPU could be a bit stronger, but the OS is fantastic, of course with it being open I do have the option to overclock it, or even dual boot or triple boot down the line.

            It will now be my last Nokia phone unfortunately, I predicted (along with many others) that going with Elop and windows phone would be Nokia's demise, turns out we were right, not surprising when Elop was still effectively working for microsoft while at the helm of Nokia.

            http://techrights.org/2011/03/01/microsoft-employment-contracts/

            Quote "Any exec that goes to other company in a year, must work for MSFT agenda, or he gets sued. That is non-compete clause. If he doesn’t do what MSFT says, that is competition"
            guzz46
          • Meego is not dead...

            Meego is now called Sailfish and Jolla is now the new Nokia. If Meego is as good as people claim it to be, and that Nokia made a mistake in dumping it, then it should continue to sell million when Jolla puts out their first two phones, purportedly before the end of the year. Personally I think it's as much a dead-end when it gets re-released as when Nokia dump it.
            petin_y@...
          • Elop

            Plus, he only allowed it to be released in small and/or unwealthy markets with basically zero advertising, and at a ridiculously high price. The N9 ran into a dead end constructed by Elop.
            Michael Harry
        • hmmm

          Zune was never sold outside the US, so for customers in the worlds biggest markets it doesn't matter.

          OK both the people who bought Kin might be annoyed, but seriously the numbers there are tiny. Probably less than Samsung sells in an hour.

          What's the cricitism always made of Windows phone ? Too late to market, too far behind on the whole app eco-system. The thing Elop *GOT* was that anything Nokia developed could be good technically but would starting behind Blackberry, Android, IOS and Windows phone. They had to get on either Android or Windows - Android meant being an also ran (with HTC and Samsung already well established) and Windows brought Microsoft cash and a chance to do something distinctive.
          jamesone
      • Probably can't. The comment there was ridiculous.

        I remember driving around Redmond... didn't see any factories there. Office buildings: yes. So, is it possible that someone else was doing the actual manufacture of the keyboards and mice?

        One of my workmates showed me a SurfaceRT with a grimace: "I can't *DO* anything with this! And they want to charge me AUD$9.00 for a Faceb00k app! Nine bucks! I'm returning this POS: it's a money-drain..."

        Really? So, is this the new MS ecosystem? 8-/ Not impressed.
        Robynsveil
        • Do you really have to lie to get your point accross?

          I have the surface RT, and I can tell you've never used one, let alone laid your eyes on one. You are a noob. There are plenty of free facebook apps, which aren't really needed as there is a full browser

          Wow, you just have no idea. Even the Microsoft facebook touch app is free

          Noob extreme!
          Trentski
          • So because the OP isn't

            A raging Microsoft fanboy, he, or she must be a liar? I honestly tried to give WP a shot,but the shoddy build quality, of the two Lumias I personally tried, quickly put an ed to that. When Microsoft (Nokia was a subsidiary) can't even build good phone, then all is truly lost. Look up the Lumia 900, purple haze screen, and that was the second one, the first on had a defective screen that shattered, just falling over.
            Troll Hunter J
      • Re: The mice and keyboards are industry best and put Logitech to shame.

        Please.

        These "Microsoft" keyboard and mice are in fact not made by Microsoft. They are OEM builds. Not only that, but these devices are by far not the best on the market.

        Then, keyboards and mice are not personal computers or mobile devices. There is big difference. In fact, any attempt by Microsoft to design, build and market personal computers and mobile devices so far has been failure.
        danbi
      • Being Microsoft mice, and Keyboards are just

        Re-branded Logitech hardware, your flap about them being better, is impossible. Microsoft's products all start out as Re-branded "x". The Original zune, was a Toshiba Gigabeat, the original xbox, was made by Sega, the Mice, and keyboards are ade by Logitech, and finally the Lumia phones were designed by Foxconn, and built in India.
        Troll Hunter J
  • Short sighted much

    Microsoft is licensing the Nokia brand name for 10 years for now. Nokia will still live. The same design team that worked on Asha, N9, and Lumia is coming over to Microsoft. The only difference now is they have the backing of Microsoft.

    Anyone who sees this as a fail should just look at Motorola. They were a fail before Google stepped in. The same goes for Nokia. Nokia was a fail before Microsoft. With Microsoft now fully in the Nokia camp Nokia owners will finally get decent support for Lumia devices on par with the iPhone and Motorola X
    Dreyer Smit
    • It's a failure however you look at it

      Motorola is part of the powerful Android ecosystem.

      Nokia, controlled by Microsoft proxy Stephen Elop, bet the farm on the already-failed Windows Phone and lost.

      Windows Phone is a carcass flapping in the breeze. It can't stand up, if it wasn't for Microsoft artificially propping it up. Microsoft's purchase of Nokia will mean that all the other manufacturers will desert the sinking Windows Phone, which is the true burning platform.
      Vbitrate
      • Failed?

        No arguments at all. This is an OS that runs perfectly on ANY configuration and has a lot fewer bugs compared to android, while increasing in market share every month. That is far from fail.
        Nicolae Anghel
        • Re: and has a lot fewer bugs compared to android

          Android at least has good IMAP e-mail client, WP does not. A "smartphone" that can't properly do e-mail?
          danbi
        • increasing in market share every month?

          It's growing slower than the market. Before renaming Windows Mobile, Windows Phone, they had more Marketshare. But at that Time the iPhone was only available on one carrier in the US. Since then they've lost Marketshare. So there is no growth, when you go from nearly 10%, to less than 4%.
          Troll Hunter J