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Microsoft’s UAE devices arm stays silent on job cuts, Nokia X U-turn

Gulf employees’ futures left in doubt as Dubai-based unit keeps plans under wraps

It is not yet known how many, if any, of Microsoft’s 18,000 job cuts will be in the Gulf region.
It is not yet known how many, if any, of Microsoft’s 18,000 job cuts will be in the Gulf region.

The future of the region's Microsoft employees was left in doubt this week after Microsoft's Dubai-based devices unit, formerly Nokia UAE, remained silent on whether Redmond's plan for historic job cuts would extend to the company's Gulf workforce.

Microsoft Corp on Thursday announced a downsizing programme that will eliminate 14% of its workforce by the end of the year, as its chief executive Satya Nadella looks to get rid of overlapping roles resulting from its $7.2bn acquisition of Nokia's smartphone business. Some 12,500 of the 18,000 expected layoffs will reportedly be designed to reduce those overlaps, but it is not clear how many of those will be ex-Nokia staff and how many will be legacy Microsoft employees.

Details on what countries would bear the layoffs were sparse, but according to Reuters, the first wave will be 1,351 jobs in the Seattle area.  Finnish media reported 1,000 cuts would be in Finland, which is in the midst of a severe economic downturn.

In Dubai, repeated requests from ITP.net for comment have gone unanswered by Microsoft Devices Middle East, which was rebranded from Nokia UAE after the acquisition.

Following its announcement of layoffs, Microsoft also said it would discontinue its Nokia X product line, which installs Google's Android operating system on budget smartphones in the hope of wooing Android fans onto Windows Phone-based Lumia devices by exposing them to Microsoft services.

When the X was first launched Microsoft was already deeply into its takeover of Nokia's devices unit and industry analysts were confused as to the timing of the release. Some believed Microsoft would scrap the project after the acquisition was complete, but Microsoft Devices EVP Stephen Elop and newly appointed VP of Microsoft Devices Middle East, Jon French (in an interview with ITP.net), both indicated ongoing support for the X.

The U-turn will likely confuse a market already unsure of Microsoft's strategy to win consumers for the Windows Phone market in an industry dominated by Samsung, Apple and Google, and by budget Chinese vendors such as Huawei, ZTE and Lenovo, which have gobbled increasingly larger shares.