When Stephen Elop first took the reins at Nokia in September of 2010, there was rampant speculation that he might show some sympathies to his former employer, Microsoft. Elop had been employed by the Redmond-based company for two years, heading up their Business Division. Microsoft Office was his most recent product launch before taking the reins of the world's largest phone-maker.
And now it appears that Elop's status as a sleeper agent is all but confirmed. TechEye reports that Nokia is about to lay off 6,000 mostly-Finn employees. While that's terrible news for those workers, the juicier information comes from this snippet. "We have also heard that all the work from the Symbian group is going to go to Microsoft."
You'll remember that Nokia recently closed the Symbian source code. They've also pulled out of the MeeGo OS in order to devote themselves fully to Windows Phone 7. In essence, Nokia is turning into the production arm of Microsoft's phone business. And it may not end there.
We've been hearing Nokia tablet rumors for months now. The shelving of MeeGo doesn't mean the end of Nokia's tablet plans. Some tablet-centric version of Windows Phone 7 seems likely to hit eventually. And Nokia is well placed to be the exclusive manufacturer.
I can't decide if this is great, or terrible for innovation. Nokia hasn't exactly been tearing up the mobile OS business lately. MeeGo has thus far proved a rather spectacular failure, and Symbian will never be competition to iOS or Android. Nokia's attempts at a modern smartphone have all ended in either titanic disappointment, or something solid-but-uninspiring (the N900).
But Microsoft finally seems to have a handle on this smartphone thing. Windows Phone 7 is an attractive, highly usable OS with a developing app catalogue and some very sound pro-developer policies. The WP7 app ecosystem draws in 1200 new developers each week, and grows by 11.5k apps each quarter. There's a spark here, and Nokia may be the perfect manufacturer to fan it into a flame.
Elop may be making the best moves for his company. But the fact that those moves also happen to benefit Microsoft will continue to attract attention. Nokia's best road to escaping this sort of slander? Open up to Android. Then we'll stop crudely photoshopping your CEO's face onto movie posters.