Microsoft shoot itself in foot by killing Nokia brand too early?

Microsoft unceremoniously gives Nokia smartphones brand swift burial with Lumia 535

At the unveiling of the 'well-below-Dh500' Microsoft Lumia 535 in Dubai last week, Microsoft officials were quick to point out their new strategy for attaining leadership position in a mobile-first world.

The company “was founded with the vision of putting a computer in every home and on every desk,” said Jon French, Vice President, Microsoft Devices Middle East. “Microsoft is now delivering the power of everyday mobile technology to everyone,” he quipped.

The Microsoft Lumia 535, thus, became the first ‘non-Nokia’ Lumia smartphone to be unveiled, and Microsoft promises to launch many more of these in the coming months, across the entire price spectrum, all with the ‘Microsoft’ branding.

But with the unveiling of the 535 last week, Microsoft rather unceremoniously gave the Nokia smartphones brand a swift burial. Despite having the rights to the Nokia name for use for up to 10 years from the date of its acquisition (April 2014), Microsoft seemed to be in a hurry to put the Nokia branding to rest.

The firm says it will use ‘Microsoft Lumia’ for its smartphones going forward but will still use the Nokia branding on its feature phones – for now anyways. In fact, so eager is Microsoft to stamp its ownership on the devices that the 535 doesn’t even have the Lumia branding on the hardware – it’s Microsoft both front and back of the device.

It’s a bold strategy, and Microsoft officials admit that. “It’s a pretty bold move [to do away with the Nokia branding] within six months of the acquisition,” said French, but “we want eyeballs on Microsoft services.”

Running on the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system, the 535, for instance, comes preloaded with a host of integrated Microsoft services – Office 365 suite, OneDrive cloud storage, Outlook mail, Skype and Cortana although the last one is still conspicuous by its absence in the region.

But wasn’t all this bundling still possible if the 535 was a Nokia Lumia as opposed to a Microsoft Lumia?

Killing its acquisition Nokia so soon may be a tad too ambitious considering that despite its fall from grace, Nokia is still a very recognisable brand in the smartphones domain. By betting that customers will prefer a smartphones-stranger Microsoft to a known devil Nokia, the US firm has taken a big gamble.

Will it pay off? “When thinking of a new product strategy in the entry segment, I always have the Dubai taxi driver in mind,” says French. And they, maintains French, are very aware of the Nokia-to-Microsoft shift.

“I talk to them, and they get it. They completely get it,” says French. With 46 per cent of mobile phones in the UAE sporting the Nokia branding (according to latest TRA data), one can only hope that French’s reading of the Dubai cabbie is spot on.

Only time will tell if the US software major has indeed killed the Finnish Nokia brand a little too early for its own good in its quest for that leadership slot in the mobile hardware domain.

For now, though, Microsoft is busy celebrating the launch of the multi-coloured Lumia 535 and Lumia 535 Dual SIM, which will be available in the UAE, starting December.

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