Rumor Mill: Microsoft likely to abandon Nokia brand, especially on newer products

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) appears likely to phase out the Nokia (NYSE:NOK) brand in its mobile products, especially smartphones, following its $7.5 billion acquisition of Nokia's devices and services business, according to newly leaked internal documents.

The documents, which were posted by prolific mobile leaker evleaks, reveal Microsoft's branding strategy for the Nokia business it acquired as well as guidance for employees.  The two companies have previously disclosed that Microsoft has a license to use the Nokia brand on Lumia Windows Phones smartphones for 18 months from the closing date of the deal, or until Nov. 25, 2015; on Nokia X devices until Dec. 31,  2015; and for S30 and 240 series feature phones until April 25, 2024. However, Microsoft will likely stop using the Nokia brand sooner than those dates, especially for new products.

"Microsoft brand will only replace the Nokia brand in product, applications and experiences when Microsoft has launched a new product into the market," the documents indicate.

A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to comment.

Hints of this strategy shift were evident shortly after the deal closed in late April, when Stephen Elop, executive vice president of Microsoft's Devices Group, said that Microsoft did not plan to use the Nokia brand for Nokia's smartphones for much longer. 

"Microsoft Mobile Oy is a legal construct that was created to facilitate the merger,"  Elop said on Nokia's website in a live question and answer session on the acquisition. "It is not a brand that will be seen by consumers. The Nokia brand is available to Microsoft to use for its mobile phones products for a period of time, but Nokia as a brand will not be used for long going forward for smartphones. Work is underway to select the go forward smartphone brand."

In the leaked documents Microsoft said that Nokia's Lumia, Asha and Nokia X brands, as well as the rest of the mobile phone portfolio, will continue to receive "full support" from Microsoft.  

The documents also reveal that Microsoft is continuing to work with Nokia's advertising partners and that media commitments remain unchanged. Interestingly, the documents say that Microsoft is "carefully planning how, when and where to introduce the Microsoft brand [to Nokia retail stores] over a significant period of time." Microsoft is also planning to introduce the Microsoft brand to Nokia's care centers.

Microsoft's Windows Phone roster includes the Nokia brand, Huawei, Samsung Electronics, Foxconn, Gionee, Lava, Lenovo, Longcheer, JSR, Karbonn, Micromax, Prestigio and ZTE. Microsoft earlier this year eliminated licensing fees for Windows device makers that are building smartphones and tablets with screens smaller than nine inches, which should make it more palatable for OEMs and ODMs to use Windows Phone even with Nokia now integrated into Microsoft, especially in markets like China and India.

Micromax just announced the availability of the Canvas Win W121 and Canvas Win W092, the company's first Windows Phone 8.1 devices. The phones were developed through the Windows Hardware Partner Portal and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Reference Design program, which is designed to allow device makers to produce entry-level Windows Phones more quickly. Starting in July 2014, the Canvas Win W121 and Canvas Win W092 will be available in retailers across India for around $158 and $108, respectively.

For more:
- see this evleaks post
- see this Neowin article
- see this VentureBeat article
- see this Windows Phone Central article

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