Thursday, 23 October 2014

Microsoft to drop the iconic Nokia name from its smartphones in India

NEW DELHI: Microsoft is set to drop the iconic Nokia name from its smartphones in India by the end of this year, as the US giant embarks on a drive to give a new identity to a brand that was once a synonym for mobile handsets.

According to people in the know, Microsoft will be undertaking the rebranding exercise country-by-country, instead of doing it in one sweep globally. The first brand change will happen in France, where, over the coming days, the Nokia name will be replaced on its Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts by "Microsoft Lumia", the new brand identity.

"We are on the verge of becoming Microsoft Lumia," Nokia France's Facebook page announced in French. More information will be shared soon, it said. It is still unclear how will the new branding be seen on the Lumia smartphone models — Lumia 730, Lumia 830 and Lumia 930 — which were launched in India earlier this month. They currently carry the Nokia name.

"We have nothing to share concerning these reports," a Microsoft India spokesman said.

ET reported in September that Microsoft will stop using the Nokia brand name for its smartphones, but continue to use it on less-sophisticated feature phones for the next 10 years. "We will transition to Microsoft as soon as we can," Jo Harlow, corporate VP for phones at Microsoft, said in an interaction last month.

Microsoft acquired Nokia's mobile phone business for $7.2 billion in April. Since then, it has made several changes to the strategy of selling devices, including shutting down NokiaX, the forked Android smartphones, and discontinuing the Asha range. Soon after the merger, Microsoft said also it would cut 18,000 jobs. About 550 employees from Nokia India moved to Microsoft after the transaction.

In India, Nokia is not among the top five smartphone players, the fifth being Motorola with a 5% share. In the overall handset space it has a 10% share as of end-June, according to research firm IDC.

For a brand that introduced mobile phones to India and many other countries, it remains to be seen how the new branding is perceived by customers.

Ajey Mehta, Microsoft Mobiles manging director for India, said recently that the company will focus on driving features available on premium smartphones such as search engine Bing and One Drive storage solution, down to the affordable range and even on phones priced below $100. Microsoft Mobiles aims to also drive up volume of Windows-based phones in India.

Globally, Windows is a distant third in the mobile operating system space, behind Google's Android and Apple's iOS.