Microsoft ditches Nokia X series
Android flirtation comes to an end as Elop focuses on growing Windows Phone
Microsoft Corp this weekend signalled the end to its dalliance with Google's Android operating system by announcing the termination of the Nokia X product line in the midst of the company's most drastic job cuts in its 39-year history.
Microsoft will continue to offer support for the X, XL and X2, but will not be launching any other X products. The X handsets run on a forked version of Android that does not give access to Google Play and requires rooting to support WhatsApp.
The X range launch was puzzling to the industry as it was announced by Nokia five months after Microsoft announced its intended acquisition of the Finnish company's handset business, but well before the transaction closed. Just as surprising was Microsoft's pledge to retain the product range. Stephen Elop, ex-Nokia CEO and current executive vice president of Redmond's devices unit had made a clear commitment to the range in April and Microsoft even launched a successor to the X, the X2, in June.
"We are committed to continuing our support for feature phones, the Asha family, and the Nokia X family of devices, announced at the Mobile World Congress in February," Elop wrote in April, in a blog post.
Earlier this month, Jon French, recently appointed vice president, Microsoft Devices Middle East, made a similar commitment in an interview with ITP.net. French saw the X series as a migration point for Android fans, offering them a budget Android phone but exposing them to Microsoft services. He had hoped that exposure would encourage those users to eventually switch to Microsoft's flagship Windows Phone-based Lumia series.
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"I can tell you why X exists and I can tell you what the plan is for it," he said. "It is there to take advantage and to compete with Android, which is a very successful part of the market as the predominant OS in the world today. [The X] is a feeder system for us. It's that link between Microsoft services and a very big pool of consumers, and we can migrate those people to using Microsoft services. [This also] feeds into Lumia, which is our number-one focus."
Elop's new position on the X was made clear in a letter to employees: "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."
Microsoft Devices Middle East could not be reached for comment.