When Microsoft completes its $7.2 billion deal to buy Nokia on Friday, it will be doing more than buying a mobile phone division and beefing up its commitment to Windows Phone. It will also become a big-time Android player.
Brad Smith, Microsoft General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, announced on the Official Microsoft Blog today that the Nokia deal will be finalized this Friday. The deal is essentially the same one that had been previously announced, with some minor tweaks, including that Microsoft won't buy Nokia's Korean manufacturing facility, that 21 Chinese Nokia employees will join Microsoft rather than stay with Nokia, and that Microsoft will be in charge of Nokia.com and its related social media sites for up to a year.
On the blog, Smith's explanation of the reason for the purchase seems to be straightforward -- it's a way to help Windows Phone succeed. But if you read between the lines, you'll see that it's about more than that, and is about Android as well. He wrote:
"This acquisition will help Microsoft accelerate innovation and market adoption for Windows Phones. In addition, we look forward to introducing the next billion customers to Microsoft services via Nokia mobile phones."
Note that when he talks about introducting Nokia's customers to Microsoft services, he doesn't say Windows Phone will be the means of introduction. Instead, he says that "Nokia mobile phones" will do it.
You can be sure that was no accident. Microsoft has finally recognized that its future isn't in Windows, or Windows Phone for that matter, but in services, such as Bing, OneDrive, Bing Maps, and more. That's copying the way that Google monetizes Android, and Microsoft recognizes it's the way to monetize its own mobile and other efforts.
Expect Nokia to push its line of Android phones hard in the developing world, where it's particularly strong. That's the place where many of the "next billion customers" will be introduced to Microsoft services. Microsoft hopes that eventually those customers will migrate to Windows Phones. But if they don't, Microsoft will be perfectly happy that they continue using Nokia-made Android phones with Microsoft services on them.
So this Friday, when the deal goes through, Microsoft will immediately become a big player in Android, world-wide.