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X marks the chop: Microsoft takes axe to Nokia's Android venture

Elop explains new, lighter strategy (sort of)

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Microsoft's Android phones are the latest casualty of the company's axe. The X range was only launched in February this year, before the acquisition of Nokia's devices unit had been completed, but the mutant 'droids will soon be phased out, says CEO Satya Nadella.

Microsoft is getting rid of up to 18,000 jobs as it digests the former No.1 phone maker. Former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, executive VP of the Microsoft Devices group, has also shed some light on where the cuts will fall.

"Microsoft knew what they were buying", a Nokia executive told The Register back in February. The X range was intended to supersede the aging Asha Series 40 for developing markets like India, and used cheap hardware based on the Android Open Source Project, AOSP.

Nokia appeared to be deadly serious, launching its own app store and developer programme to accompany the X range. Nokia had also persuaded app developers including Line and BlackBerry to port their apps to the platform, which also featured apps from Microsoft and Nokia's HERE division.

Early reviews were lukewarm, pointing to the cheap display and low RAM in the phones — but the most recent model has a specification capable of running Android well, at a price capable of luring impecunious Western buyers on pay-as-you-go deals to the Stickle Bricks™-coloured gadgets.

So maybe that's why it was shot in a hurry?

CEO Satya Nadella (or a robot jargon-generator speaking on his behalf) explained:

[Warning: Nadellese ahead]

To win in the higher price tiers, we will focus on breakthrough innovation that expresses and enlivens Microsoft’s digital work and digital life experiences. In addition, we plan to shift select Nokia X product designs to become Lumia products running Windows. This builds on our success in the affordable smartphone space and aligns with our focus on Windows Universal Apps.

Elaborating in an email titled "Hello there", former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop explained that Microsoft will continue to sell low-cost feature phones, but shift production to Hanoi, with some production continuing in Beijing and Dongguan.

The factory that produces X phones in Komárom, Hungary looks doomed. Elop said Microsoft will shift other Microsoft manufacturing and repair operations – to Manaus in Brazil and Reynosa in Mexico respectively.

Microsoft will make R&D cuts (or "ramp down our engineering work") in Finnish city Oulu, Beijing and San Diego.

Many expected Microsoft to look for a buyer for the featurephones division, which still generates considerable cash. But it appears to have decided against this, and to consolidate the operation instead. In any case, a featurephone without the Android X is a lot less attractive than it would have been with it. ®

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