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Nokia CEO quashes talk of sale to Microsoft

Matt Hamblen | Feb. 13, 2011
Despite a sweeping deal with Microsoft on Windows Phone, Elop dispels rumors that a Nokia buyout is imminent

FRAMINGHAM 13 FEBRUARY 2011 - BARCELONA -- Microsoft won't be buying Nokia anytime soon despite a sweeping Windows Phone agreement announced by the vendors last week, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop told reporters Sunday.

"There was no discussion of acquisition" during negotiations of a pact that will have Nokia phones running Windows Phone 7, Elop said at a crowded press conference on the eve of the Mobile World Congress here.

"The best approach for Nokia was to enter into a deep partnership, but to respect that there's a huge chunk of Nokia that's not in [Microsoft's interest]," he added.

Several analysts have suggested that the Nokia-Windows Phone partnership could lead to Microsoft buying the Finnish company. Analysts said that despite the high cost of such an acquisition, the fact that mobile devices such as smartphones and laptops will play a central role in the emerging computing and communications landscape could make it successful.

Also, analysts noted Microsoft would capture Nokia's distribution and manufacturing capabilities, providing a huge boost to its efforts to increase its small share of the smartphone market.

Elop acknowledged he had heard the speculation that the cell phone maker might be an acquisition target.

Gartner said Microsoft had 3.4% share of the smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2010, putting it in fifth place.

Symbian-based devices made by Nokia and others led the smartphone market with a share of 32.6%, Gartner said. Nokia's own devices had a 28.5% share of the smartphone market in the quarter, Elop said on Sunday.

While Elop didn't rule out a future purchase of Nokia by Microsoft, he said the focus of the partnership now is the "next billion" Windows Phone-based devices that will be produced by Nokia. "The opportunity for shared value was first priority," he said.

Elop also defended the plan to use Windows Phone on Nokia hardware at a time when few others, such as Samsung, HTC and LG, have committed to Microsoft. He suggested other device manufacturers will move in that direction and say, "We'll compete in the Windows Phone ecosystem."

He added that the first priority is to compete with Android devices. "We have shifted from a battle of devices to a war of ecosystems," he said.

Elop also introduced Jo Harlow, who was promoted last week to executive vice president of smart devices at Nokia. She previously held a chief marketing post.

Harlow said a Nokia device running Windows Phone will be available sometime this year, and she presented two slides of concept Nokia devices, including one slide that has already been widely seen on blogs.


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