Nokia (NYSE: NOK) CEO Stephen Elop soundly dismissed recent rumors that the Finnish company is in talks to sell its hardware business to new partner Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT). There are “absolutely no talks,” Elop told attendees at All Things D, describing the reports as “baseless.” He also gave a little flash of an Unidentified Mobile Object that some are guessing might be the first Windows device from the company. A note later from a Nokia spokesperson hinted that details about it could be coming out in the next few weeks.
This latest denial of a Microsoft acquisition comes after two weeks of speculation that was kicked off by the Russian blogger Eldar Murtazin, who claimed to have inside knowledge of a deal going down between the two companies for Microsoft to buy Nokia’s Devices and Services division. That rumor kicked up a notch yesterday when people began putting a pricetag on the deal: $19 billion.
Nokia has been flat-out denying the reports since they surfaced, and yesterday was no exception to that. The news came on the heels of a depressed share price for the company, after Nokia had to issue a profit warning to investors for earnings that will be substantially below previous expectations.
Two things you can’t deny about Elop are the man’s consistently confident manner and honest appraisal of the challenges Nokia faces, and while those of us who follow Nokia regularly will not be surprised by most of his answers yesterday (yes, tablets are important; yes, there will probably be a device before the year is out; no, it’s not a war of devices but of ecosystems), one moment played particularly well by him in yesterday’s chat with Walt Mossberg was the instant when he casually took out and then pocketed an un-named black device.
“That could have just been a hunk of inert plastic you pulled out,” claimed Mossberg, as Elop laughed off his questions.
“That’s called a sneak,” Elop replied.
Predictably bloggers have been studying the interview (the “sneak” is around the 4:40 mark), with the precision of those looking for evidence of a lone gunman, comparing the device to the prototype pictures released by Nokia around the Mobile World Congress in February.
Whether or not Elop’s device was real or not, its WP7 competitors are showing off devices already and Nokia may end up showing theirs off sooner than they’ve even said before:
“Apparently @selop flashed a #Nokia prototype at the #D9 attendees. Nothing to add now but there will be more details in the coming weeks,” tweeted Mark Squires, Nokia spokesperson in the UK.