Passing the torch: Nokia’s legacy in Microsoft’s hands

Passing the torch: Nokia’s legacy in Microsoft’s hands
French: You hit your peaks and you come down again, but it’s all driven by what the consumer wants: innovation.
Published: 10 July 2014 - 3:06 p.m.
By: Stephen McBride

It is hard to remember a time when the Internet had nothing to do with "Things". Smartphones were executive curios with business-focused functions and tablets were something you took when you were sick.

But Apple and Google changed all that. Between them they consumerised devices and ecosystems and drove a dizzying evolution of technology and the way people relate to it. New players entered the game with their own contributions. Social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter fuelled unparalleled content production and arguably encouraged the growth of big data.

Paradoxically, Microsoft Corp, the undisputed king of the previous desktop era, played a relatively modest role in the new age. OEM partners of its mobile platform failed to chew off significant chunks of the emerging smart devices market and Nokia last year finally let the curtain fall on its mobility story, opting to sell its flagging devices unit to Microsoft for $7.4bn.

Jon French, newly appointed vice president, Microsoft Devices Middle East, took time out to share with his vision of the hyper competitive sector and Microsoft's place in it, as the company looks at devices with new eyes following the appointment of its new chief executive Satya Nadella in February.

"I'm constantly amazed by how fast this industry [mobile devices] changes," French muses. "You hit your peaks and you come down again, but it's all driven by what the consumer wants: innovation."

When Microsoft bought Nokia's devices division, it merged the property with its own and put ex-Nokia CEO Stephen Elop in charge. Elop's purview included all previous Nokia devices, including its Lumia and Asha ranges and the anomalous Android-based Nokia X. But it also covered the Microsoft Surface and the Xbox gaming consoles.

The regional devices unit is a separate entity, French explains, focusing entirely on legacy Nokia products.

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