Microsoft is wrapping up negotiations to use the Nokia and Lumia brands for their own hardware devices, according to EVLeaks. If the rumor is true, Microsoft intends to replace their handset branding with “Nokia by Microsoft” and the Surface branding with Lumia branding.
Over the past 2 years, Microsoft has spent millions of dollars building the Surface brand, although always in an awkward place—first with the failed push of Surface RT, and most recently with the last-minute abandonment of the announcement of Surface Mini, and always with the claim that the brand is supposed to push their hardware partners forward rather than compete with them. If this rumor is true, Microsoft is unhappy with the reputation they’ve managed to build for Surface over the years.
It may even indicate Microsoft is wary of the reputation their own name has, at this point. They’ve never had a particularly strong reputation in Europe, going back to the earliest antitrust lawsuits over Internet Explorer and continuing to recent accusations that a former Microsoft executive was sent to Nokia with the express goal of chopping it into pieces that Microsoft would be interested in buying. Moreover, the name Nokia still holds a lot of weight in Europe, and is still the second-largest handset brand there after Samsung.
It’s unclear whether the intended rebranding will be everywhere, only in Europe, or even if it will happen at all—it is just a rumor, and even that rumors say the negotiations are still underway even if they are nearing completion. Still, in a particularly tumultuous time for Microsoft’s upper management, it will be interesting to see how their strategy evolves going forward.