Microsoft is poised to release its first Surface tablet, so of course, speculation in the tech industry is turning once again to the possibility of the Redmond company coming out with its own Windows Phone, possibly under the Surface brand.

Nokia CEO and former Microsoft exec Stephen Elop, who has made a huge bet on Windows Phone and would face increased competition from a Microsoft device, said on a conference call with analysts this morning that Nokia would actually encourage Microsoft to go ahead.

Elop’s statement came in response to an analyst’s question. From the webcast, here’s the full the exchange …

Q: “If Microsoft were to launch their own device, would you see that as a stimulant to the ecosystem or a competitor?”

Elop: “It’s certainly a stimulant to the ecosystem. As I said earlier, we’re encouraging of HTC and Samsung and Microsoft or whomever to have devices in the market and to be making whatever investments that help spur the ecosystem on. As it relates to the competitive aspects of it, of course anyone else in the ecosystem is some sort of competitor. That being said, we’re very proud of the unique differentiation that we are bringing to the Windows Phone platform. And when you look closely at what we’re doing with those devices, it is innovation that we’ve invested in for a number of years. It’s not something that’s easily replicated or reinvented or anything like that. This is the result of taking those unpolished gems from our R&D labs and landing them in the Lumia products. Of course that’s well-protected by intellectual property and something that we would use to differentiate regardless of who our competition might be.”

The Verge reported on the comment earlier today.

Nokia sold 2.9 million Lumia Windows Phones in the third quarter, down from 4 million in the second quarter.  For context, Google says it sees 1.3 million Android device activations every day.

Microsoft reports its quarterly earnings later today.

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  • guest

    If that doesn’t signal desperation, nothing else does. Please compete with us so our market is validated, b/c we can’t do it ourselves. The Nokia board must just be cringing.

  • Guest

    I like this strategy. Android phones have always followed the small number of Google-blessed devices: the G1, the G2, the Nexus One, the Nexus S, and the Galaxy Nexus present a pole around which others may rally. A Microsoft “reference phone,” which we’d call the Nexus M, would be a great idea.

  • Guest

    The thing that’s most surprising is that no one on Nokia’s board seems to have figured out that Elop isn’t working for them: he’s working for Ballmer still. He hasn’t made a single decision that’s in Nokia’s interests rather than Microsoft’s.

    Nokia managed to hire the one CEO worse than Ballmer since he follows Ballmer blindly.

    • Guest

      Yeah, that’s it. Their entire board are idiots. None has figured out what’s so obvious to you.
      “He hasn’t made a single decision that’s in Nokia’s interests rather than Microsoft’s.”
      Like licensing Nokia maps to Oracle and Amazon?

  • Bob

    Elop’s response makes sense. He doesn’t have much to fear from it right now. But Nokia really needs to amp up their innovation (recent efforts here are more encouraging), set pricing that makes sense (still too high in many cases), and demonstrate they can actually sell product in quantity. If they can’t, MS probably has no choice but to go direct. Partial mindshare at Samsung or HTC just isn’t going to get it done. In fact, at that point, they probably need to consider offering their own phone+service option directly to consumers. And they should probably consider buying Nokia anyway. Because the combination of their maps and patents [alone] is likely worth more than their current market cap, at least in the hands of a MS. So you’d get the existing mfg and distribution capability, which isn’t inconsiderable, pretty much for free. And it could be paid out of funds MS already has overseas that can’t be repatriated without tax consequences.

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