As Microsoft announced its largest job cuts ever today, it also signaled a retreat from its low-end Nokia X line of Android phones.
Microsoft said 18,000 jobs will go in the next year; that represents about 14% of the company's 127,000-member work force. A total of 12,500 of the layoffs will come from factory and professional jobs that were part of the Nokia acquisition in April. That acquisition added about 25,000 jobs at Microsoft.
A major impact will be felt in Microsoft's still-fledgling smartphone business, which is mainly powered by Windows Phone. After four years of sales, Windows Phone has garnered less than 4% of the global smartphone market.
Following the company's layoff announcement, analyst Jack Gold, of J. Gold Associates, predicted that Microsoft's phone business will be sold or spun off within 18 months. That follows the pattern Google pursued with the purchase of Motorola's phone business, which it quickly sold to Lenovo.
As a result of the cutbacks, Android phones in the low-end Nokia X line will be killed. Nokia had introduced the line before the handset business was sold in April to Microsoft.
"We plan to shift select Nokia X product designs to become Lumia products running Windows," CEO Satya Nadella said in a letter to workers.
In a separate letter to employees, Stephen Elop, vice president of devices and services and former Nokia CEO, said the shift of Nokia X to Windows Phone will occur immediately, while sales of existing Nokia X products continue.
"We will be particularly focused on making the market for Windows Phone," Elop said, noting that Microsoft would target sales of affordable smartphones within the Lumia line to gain traction in that fast-growing market segment.
But Elop also left room for "great breakthrough products" to win sales in the higher end of the market. Microsoft's separate smart devices and mobile phones business units will be combined into one phone business, he added.
Most of Microsoft's phone production will occur in Hanoi, with some continuing in Beijing and Dongguan, China, Elop said. There will be a phased exit of phone production from Komaron, Hungary, he said.
Phone engineering will be concentrated in Finland as it was under Nokia. High-end Lumia products will be developed in Salo, Finland, affordable products, in Tampere, Finland.
Elop also said the devices team will continue to design and build tablets, resulting in "limited change" to the Surface tablet team and those building Xbox devices.
Despite the new focus on phones at Microsoft, Gold said Microsoft faces big challenges. Even if Microsoft were to grow its share of the smartphone market to 5% globally, that would represent nearly 50% growth from its current share of about 3% to 3.5% -- a daunting task, Gold said.
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