Yesterday, Opera and Microsoft signed an agreement to use Opera Mini as the default web browser for Microsoft’s existing feature phones and Asha phones portfolio. This covers Series 30+, Series 40 and Asha software platforms. Nokia and Opera have a long history together from the days of the Communicators. The Nokia 9500 Communicator has Opera browser as its default web browser. But, I digress. If you were surprised at the news of yesterday’s agreement between Microsoft and Opera, let’s clear the air now.
Just days ago after the launch of the Nokia 130, curious as to why Microsoft would proceed to launch a Series 30+ phone after supposedly announcing the discontinuation of Nokia’s feature phone and X ranges, I spoke with a Microsoft Nigeria official to ask questions. His response was that there was a lot of poor journalism and reporting going on with people reading things into statements from Microsoft’s CEO. He clarified that Nokia’s feature phones are not on the chopping block yet.
Here is the statement again:
“We plan to immediately begin ramping down developer engagement activities related to Nokia X, Asha and Series 40 apps and shift support to maintenance mode. We are committed to supporting our existing Mobile Phones customers, and will ensure proper operation during the planned controlled shutdown of services over the next 18 months.”
Forget what you heard from anywhere else. How does that statement read? In my opinion, if you are ramping down developer support for a platform, you are killing off the platform.
Anyway, however the earlier statement reads, Rich Bernardo, head of legacy business, Phones, Microsoft confirmed that Microsoft will still produce feature and Asha devices in a public statement yesterday:
“We continue to sell and support classic first and feature phones as well as the Asha range, which have performed well with millions of people who want new mobile experiences at lower price points. The agreement with Opera will enable us to provide continuity of service as we transition from Xpress Browser to Opera Mini.”
So, clearly Microsoft is not exactly disconnecting everyone that Nokia connected. They are just getting rid of the X range. Or they are doing damage control. Whatever. The news that Microsoft will continue to produce feature phones is great news though. As I have said before, throwing away Nokia’s feature phone base would have been outright foolishness. That base kept Nokia alive while building on Windows Phone. And that base is still very strong and viable.