Microsoft to axe Nokia feature phones amid massive layoffs

Nokia Lumia 520 with Windows Phone 8
Credit: Thinkstock

The times they are a changin'. Nokia not too long ago became synonymous with cellphones thanks to an endless assortment of cleverly designed feature phones. And sure, the Finland-based company also had its own lineup of smartphones, but once Apple released the iPhone, Nokia was put on the defensive and never managed to regain its footing.

Flash forward a few years and Microsoft in September of 2013 purchased Nokia's devices and services business for $7.2 billion. Now comes word, in the wake of Microsoft axing 18,000 employees (12,000 of them coming from the Nokia acquisition), that Redmond will also be discontinuing Nokia's feature phone lineup.

The Verge reports:

In an internal memo sent to Microsoft employees, Jo Harlow, who heads up the phone business under Microsoft devices, reveals the focus is very much on Windows Phone. Development and investment for Asha, Series 40, and Nokia X handsets will shift to what is described as "maintenance mode," and services to support existing devices will be shut down over the next 18 months. "This means there will be no new features or updates to services on any mobile phones platform as a result of these plans," says Harlow, in the internal memo seen by The Verge.

Naturally, Microsoft going forward will be trying to convince users to switch over to Windows Phone devices. Which, of course, is also aligned with the company's plans to end Nokia's Android efforts.

In an email sent to employees today, Microsoft's Stephen Elop writes in part:

It is particularly important to recognize that the role of phones within Microsoft is different than it was within Nokia. Whereas the hardware business of phones within Nokia was an end unto itself, within Microsoft all our devices are intended to embody the finest of Microsoft’s digital work and digital life experiences, while accruing value to Microsoft’s overall strategy. Our device strategy must reflect Microsoft’s strategy and must be accomplished within an appropriate financial envelope. Therefore, we plan to make some changes.

We will be particularly focused on making the market for Windows Phone. In the near term, we plan to drive Windows Phone volume by targeting the more affordable smartphone segments, which are the fastest growing segments of the market, with Lumia. In addition to the portfolio already planned, we plan to deliver additional lower-cost Lumia devices by shifting select future Nokia X designs and products to Windows Phone devices. We expect to make this shift immediately while continuing to sell and support existing Nokia X products.

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