Was Stephen Elop positioning Nokia for Microsoft merger all along?

Stephen Elop’s plan for saving Nokia by partnering with Microsoft has ended up working after all, but only because Microsoft has acquired Nokia outright – which leads to the question of whether that was what Elop was aiming for from day one. When he became the CEO of Nokia, his first major move was to hitch up with Microsoft’s beleaguered Windows Mobile platform, eschewing the easy revenue that could have been had by latching onto the rising Android ship. The move looked like a terrible mistake when the smartphone versions of Windows 7 and then Windows 8 failed to take off in any meaningful capacity, making Nokia’s Lumia hardware the crown jewel of an empty empire.

As the Microsoft partnership floundered, Nokia’s financial hard times continued, new Lumia models were praised by reviewers by ignored by the public, and Elop’s reign seemed to be a failure. The merger between the two companies now paints a different picture, as Nokia shareholders have been steered into the financially comfortable arms of Microsoft. Even if Windows Mobile never does take off and the Lumia is folded entirely, Nokia shareholders will still safely have their hands on equivalent Microsoft stock. But did Elop luck out with a last minute deal that saved him, or was he positioning Nokia for acquisition all along?

No one but Stephen Elop will ever know the answer to that question for sure. But with his tenure having consisted of little more than a deep partnership with a cash-rich software vendor, Elop managed to play the entire tech industry – including Microsoft itself. As the industry now waits to see whether the Lumia hardware line manages to find any more of a mainstream footing under the Microsoft umbrella than it has under Nokia’s reign, the fact that Nokia found an escape hatch at all means that Elop’s seemingly disastrous legacy may have to be revisited.