Summary:

Now that Microsoft has a mobile hardware division in Nokia, it really doesn’t need its old smartphone and tablet partners. Knowing that, Nokia looks to be ready to debut a half-dozen new devices, which could boost Stephen Elop’s chances at becoming Microsoft’s CEO.

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At a Tuesday event in Abu Dhabi, Nokia is expected to launch a half-dozen new mobile devices running on Microsoft software. The plans were reported by the Wall Street Journal on Monday, and if true, represent the first major product launch since Nokia agreed to sell its handset division to Microsoft for $7.17 billion.

A few of the products have already been rumored and leaked. Nokia’s first effort at a Windows RT tablet is expected to debut for $499 with an integrated LTE option on Verizon’s network. A large handset, perhaps as big as 6-inches in size, is also a likely new product candidate; particularly since Microsoft last week announced Windows Phone support for larger, full HD displays.

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With these and additional products, Microsoft gains more breadth in device form factors and sizes. Most Windows Phone products from partners other than Nokia have been “phoned in,” for lack of a better term: Bland devices that don’t differentiate them from any other handsets. Windows RT partners have been calling it quits as well since there hasn’t been great demand for a cut-down version of Windows without legacy app support.

The interesting aspect here is that Nokia is stepping up while all other Microsoft partners are stepping out. When Microsoft decided to get into the hardware market with its own product last year — the Surface tablets — it was clear that hardware partners felt that Microsoft was competing against them.

So few decided to build Windows Phones and those that initially built RT tablets are no longer doing so. There are other reasons for that — a relative lack of success compared to devices on other platforms — but competition from Microsoft is surely part of the scenario.

Now that Microsoft owns a mobile hardware division in Nokia, it really doesn’t need those partners any longer. The company is all in with Nokia. And that’s partially why Nokia’s ex-CEO, Stephen Elop — who is once again a Microsoft employee — is an obvious name in the running to replace Steve Ballmer. Sure, there are other potentials, but if new Nokia devices running Microsoft software starts to sell in growing quantities, Elop may be a shoe-in for CEO of Microsoft, the new “devices and services” company.

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