Nokia might have been famous for its feature phones, but Microsoft is planning to wind that business down over the course of the next 18 months. 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.
Microsoft will instead try to tempt its installed base of feature and Symbian users over to Windows Phone. "Whereas successful hardware was the goal at Nokia; delighting our customers with Microsoft platforms, services, and applications through our hardware is our goal at Microsoft," says Harlow. Alongside the feature-phone cuts, Microsoft is also planning to offer Nokia MixRadio as a third-party service. The software maker is considering options to spin off the service, and has initiated discussions with "strong interest" from third parties. Until MixRadio is sold, it has also been moved into maintenance mode.
New high-end Lumias are coming 'very soon'
Focusing on Windows Phone means the majority of upcoming low- and high-end devices from Microsoft will run the company’s own software and services. Microsoft’s devices group is planning to "shift our flagship engineering efforts towards new flagship products timed with the next release of Windows and Windows Phone," meaning we’ll likely see even more high-end Windows Phones for the release of codename "Threshold" next year. "To drive success in the short term, we plan to focus our high end go-to-market strategy on the Lumia 930, Lumia 1520, and other high-end products that we will be announcing very soon," says Harlow.
The changes align with Microsoft’s plans to kill off Nokia’s Android phones, and transition these to Windows Phone in the future. Harlow says "speed here will matter" in switching Nokia X designs and products over to Lumia and Windows Phone, and that these handsets will represent Microsoft’s focus on the affordable smartphone market over the course of the next year.