Microsoft's Elop: Nokia brand soon to vanish from smartphones

Former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, now head of Microsoft's devices group, shares his thoughts on the future of smartphones and the promise of a transcendent "colorful personality."

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Microsoft's new head of devices, Stephen Elop. James Martin/CNET

Former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, starting his new job as head of Microsoft's devices group Monday, doesn't see the Nokia name sticking around for long at Microsoft.

"Nokia as a brand will not be used for long going forward for smartphones," Elop said in a Q&A on its Conversations blog (recently rebranded to Microsoft from Nokia). "Work is underway to select the go-forward smartphone brand."

The work actually began last week, when Microsoft completed its more than $7.2 billion takeover of the Finnish company's devices business, which it promptly renamed Microsoft Mobile. Elop, who worked at Microsoft before heading over to lead Nokia in 2010, proclaimed in a blog post that "We're one Microsoft."

The deal's closing marked the end of a significant chapter in Nokia's history, and the start of a new one under Microsoft, the world's largest PC software maker. Microsoft is looking to the devices maker to continue promoting its Windows Phone mobile operating system and to help in its plan to transform itself into a devices and services company.

Elop, in an "ask me anything" session earlier today, said he wasn't yet ready to share details of the plan to create a new brand. "It will not be Nokia Lumia 1020 with Windows Phone on the AT&T LTE network," he said. "Too many words! That somehow doesn't roll off the tongue."

The Nokia name will survive in the market--Microsoft didn't purchase the infrastructure business, mapping services, and advanced technology group.

Elop also answered some of the harsher critical remarks about him, including the conspiracy theory that he was a"Trojan horse" sent by Microsoft to sink Nokia.

"I have only ever worked on behalf of and for the benefit of Nokia shareholders while at Nokia," Elop said.

Likewise, his "Burning Platform" memo galvanized workers and instilled a sense of urgency into the company, allowing it to move quickly to produce Windows Phone smartphones, he said.

In response to a comment about Elop killing off Nokia's beloved -- but aging -- Symbian operating system and its next-generation Meego software platform, he justified the decisions by arguing that Symbian couldn't compete with the iPhone and Apple's iOS mobile OS. Meego, which suffered from delays in development, didn't have the promise of a broad portfolio in the near term, Elop added.

"I know that there is a lot of emotion around some of the hard decisions that we had to make," he said.

Elop was more optimistic about the devices unit under Microsoft, noting there would be ways the two could innovate together that they could not as separate entities. He said they had complementary strengths, with Nokia stronger in emerging markets and Microsoft stronger in developed markets. He also promised to bring more color to Microsoft, which has traditionally been more conservative in its styling. That color element is already evident in its first commercial after the deal.

"I'm pretty sure you will see Nokia's colorful personality transcend into Microsoft," he said.

On the role of his division at Microsoft, Elop said he wants to "make the market" and facilitate other manufacturers in creating their own Windows Phone devices, and said it was good for his company to encourage other players to participate in the ecosystem.

Elop noted his favorite apps include "Track My Life," an aviation tool called ATIS, and recent addition to the Windows Phone platform Uber.

Lastly, he offered up his favorite pizza -- prosciutto ham, mushrooms, green peppers, and tomatoes -- and even gave a shout-out to a local Finnish shop. He noted that he was getting hungry after a day of celebration.

Elop and his team will have a lot of work ahead of them.

Updated at 8 am PT: To include Elop's response on the Nokia brand. The answer wasn't previously available on the site's Q&A session.

About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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