As part of a leadership reorganization at Microsoft announced yesterday, Stephen Elop is leaving the company. The former-Nokia CEO had been responsible for Microsoft's Lumia devices after the Redmond company bought Nokia's phone business last year.
"Stephen and I have agreed that now is the right time for him to retire from Microsoft," says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "I regret the loss of leadership that this represents, and look forward to seeing where his next destination will be."
Jo Harlow, another prominent member of the Nokia leadership team brought in following the buyout, is also leaving Microsoft in an apparent clear-out of Nokia alums.
The devices business that Elop was running will be rolled into a new team dubbed Windows and Devices Group (WDG), focusing on "enabling more personal computing experiences powered by the Windows ecosystem".
It perhaps makes sense that Microsoft is focusing its leadership on the Windows ecosystem rather than on creating its devices in order to compete in the marketplace. In more recent times, it has been clear that Nadella's Microsoft cares only about what Microsoft services you run, not what device you run them on. Peter Richardson at Counterpoint Research has a good take on the situation:
The way we read this is that Satya Nadella — never a fan of the Nokia devices acquisition — will seek to morph the current Lumia business into a similar mould to the Surface business. In this way Microsoft will drive innovation in how to integrate Windows but limit its ambition to be a major player in the device business. We have always struggled to understand how Microsoft was able to reconcile the competing aims of driving adoption of Windows on mobile devices while competing aggressively in the market. In this new role we expect Microsoft to major on being a market maker instead of a direct competitor to existing and potential Windows licensees. This is a reasonable approach and one that is consistent with its strategy of driving Microsoft software assets to as many users as possible.
It's still a shame, though, that Microsoft bought the Nokia phone business that was once on the cutting edge of mobile devices, a brand leader, only for it to fizzle away into almost non-existence. The company that operates under the Nokia brand in Finland is not the same as the devices business that Microsoft acquired and, even if that company makes a return to the phone market next year, I doubt its hardware will be much to shout about.