Microsoft purges itself of remaining Nokia execs

The last vestiges of what was once the world’s dominant handset vendor have been swept away in a Microsoft management reshuffle that saw Stephen Elop and Jo Harlow leave the company.

Both execs came over to Microsoft when it acquired Nokia’s devices business in 2013. Harlow had been with Nokia for 10 years, but Elop came over from Microsoft itself in 2010 as the first non-Finn to run the company in a desperate bid to address the existential crisis precipitated by the iPhone and Android. Since the problem was principally an OS one, the thinking was presumably that importing OS expertise would be the solution.

And, perhaps inevitably, Elop’s solution was to switch Nokia smartphones from Symbian to Windows Phone, using his influence to secure a favourable deal with his previous employer. This didn’t work and eventually Nokia decided to wash its hands of the devices business and hand it over entirely to Microsoft. Elop, Harlow and a bunch of other Nokia employees moved over with the deal and became the de facto handset division of Microsoft.

Despite Nokia still being a very strong handset brand Microsoft decided to ditch it in favour of the Lumia sub-brand. Microsoft positioned these Lumia phones as ‘hero products for the platform, much as it has Surface for Windows tablets, but any chance Microsoft might have had of persuading OEMs to pay license fees for the WP platform disappeared once it became an OEM itself.

Before long, and under new leadership, Microsoft realised there was no money to be made from licensing the platform and switched its focus to trying to commercialise products and services such as Office and Skype across all platforms. At the same time it decided to merge the desktop and mobile Oss into one, which will be Windows 10. This meant a lot of the handset specialists were now redundant in every sense of the word.

“Terry Myerson will lead a new team, Windows and Devices Group (WDG), enabling our vision of a more personal computing experience powered by the Windows ecosystem,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a recent email to Microsoft employees. “We will combine the engineering efforts of our current Operating Systems Group and Microsoft Devices Group (MDG) led by Stephen Elop…With the structural change described above, Stephen and I have agreed that now is the right time for him to retire from Microsoft. I regret the loss of leadership that this represents, and look forward to seeing where his next destination will be.”

Harlow was not specifically referred to in the email or press release, but inquisitive media got confirmation of her departure too. While there are doubtless still many former Nokia people still on the Microsoft payroll, this is effectively the final chapter in the dramatic decline of Nokia’s handset division from dominant player to zero in just a few years.

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