“We’re Moving Away from the Nokia Name”

In early September I attended a Lumia 530 press event in Jakarta which also served as the launch of the product for the local market. The phone itself wasn’t anything remarkable, being a replacement for the older though popular Lumia 520. The new phone comes with the newer Windows Phone 8.1 software, a quad core processor, half the built in storage (WTF) but pretty much everything else was the same. What I noticed more though, was that all the staff there referred to themselves as from Microsoft Devices. It wasn’t the first time but it was more prominent this time.

Microsoft Devices is of course the division that is essentially Nokia’s devices unit which Nokia sold to Microsoft last year for $7.2 billion. Ex-Nokians at Microsoft have been referring to themselves as from Microsoft Devices and Services anyway so it wasn’t anything strange but on that day they were actively correcting people whenever anyone referred to the company or the product as from Nokia. “We’re Microsoft Devices now, we’re moving away from the Nokia name,” they would say. Their business cards had been changed to Microsoft Devices for a few months already.

I thought little of it since the acquisition was completed in April but it was interesting that the company chose to abandon the brand so quickly despite having licensed the name from Nokia for ten years until 2024. Initially I figured it would happen over a couple of years, not less than one. At the moment if you go to any Nokia website you would see the Microsoft brand right alongside Nokia’s and clicking on each logo would give you more information about each respective company.

What I had forgotten at the time was that the deal between the two companies allows Nokia to produce its own mobile devices beginning January 1, 2016. This deadline means that should Nokia choose to do just that, there would be two families of devices under the Nokia brand originating from different companies. Naturally this wouldn’t be a situation favorable to either company so it would make sense for Microsoft to drop the Nokia brand as soon as possible.

At the same time, Microsoft is on a path to unify its brands to make sure that the company has a much cleaner branding across its products especially as it has always suffered from brand confusion in the past.

Will abandoning the name for the upcoming holiday period cost Microsoft? According to Google’s search trends (can’t find Bing’s trends tools), the Nokia name is still relatively strong albeit on the way down but the Lumia brand is even lower, not even half the search terms for Nokia. When people search for Nokia they still search for the phones, which casts a massive shadow over the Lumia brand.

The news that came from Geek on Gadgets and verified by The Verge overnight confirmed my impression that Microsoft had been working to abandon the Nokia name as soon as possible, perhaps in anticipation of the end of the agreement but much more likely to the fact that it will end the brand uncertainty between the two companies. The report also revealed that not only is Microsoft abandoning the Nokia name, it is already phasing out the Phone part of Windows Phone to allow a unified Windows brand for its operating systems across several device categories.

From a branding perspective, the sooner this is done, the better it is for all parties concerned. Consumers will also have a much clearer picture of the situation even if they are already aware of the arrangements between the two companies.

Nokia itself remains a separate company running three major divisions; mapping software, communications infrastructure, and technology research. For consumer oriented products, it is responsible for the HERE Maps applications as well as the Z Launcher for Android phones, which has been well received by the press and early testers.

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