There can be no question that Stephen Elop, who recently announced his departure from Microsoft, has been one of the more controversial executives in Microsoft's long history. Much of this controversy centered first around his handling of Nokia, and then the Lumia line. Appearing on Windows Weekly, Todd Bishop of Geekwire had a little more to say on the subject, specifically regarding Elop's departure and the decisions he made while in charge.
It was at a recent 'Town meeting' that Elop apparently faced questions from Microsoft employees regarding this state of affairs, that he supposedly admitted were "very difficult" to answer. Specifically, they brought up the lack of premium Lumia hardware.
Since the acquisition of Nokia's Device and Services division by Microsoft in 2014, Elop was placed in control of shaping the Lumia line-up. Throughout the following year however, as more and more budget devices were revealed, the state of the Lumia line as a whole began to fall into dispute, with many thinking that Microsoft had chosen to abandon high-end hardware altogether.
In a recent memo to employees, Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, expounded on the need to make "tough decisions". It seems now that, according to the departing Elop, one of these self-said tough decisions has been to lower the laser focus on growth in the budget end of the market, and instead once more invest in the high-end, in successors to the Lumia 930 and 1520. Given the incredible success of devices like the Lumia 520, it is easy to see why abandoning a 'winning strategy' may have seemed so tough.
That the decision to focus on the lower end of the mobile phone market has proven to be controversial both internally and externally is hardly surprising. In a recent editorial, we explored precisely what the difference between a flagship and a budget device was, and the answer was rather simple: love. Where flagships inspire devotion, choice at the lower-end of the market is nearly always one of pragmatism.
With the rollout of Windows 10 due soon, it is expected that full development of Windows 10 Mobile will ramp up considerably. Launching a new platform, especially a mobile platform, is never an easy task -- press is essential. And in the mobile sphere, nothing generates positive coverage quite like some nice curvy glass, that is to say, a well-designed, powerful handset.
What effect the departure of Stephen Elop from Microsoft will have on the future of Lumia is difficult to tell at this point in time. Despite inspiring a great deal of passion in many, it is Elop more than almost anyone else who has been personally responsible for the continuation and proliferation of the brand.
At a time when Nokia was imploding, he published the infamous 'burning platform' memo, moving the then largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world firmly into Windows Phone. Nokia then went on to become easily the largest Windows Phone manufacturer, and its Lumia line provided the iconic design that the platform needed to truly distinguish itself.
Without Elop, Windows Phone would not stand where it does, and yet his departure could herald a new coming for a platform that desperately needs one. Do you think that more should have been done to focus on premium hardware at an earlier point? Let us know what you think in the comments below.