So it’s official now, Stephen Elop, current CEO of Nokia, will become the new head of Devices and Studios. This division, currently run by Julie Larson-Green, includes the Xbox division. He will take the position as soon as the acquisition of Nokia by Microsoft is completed. That is expected to occur in the next few weeks, and many Xbox fans see this as a reason to panic, but should they? Short answer is, No.
The long answer requires a bit more background. The reason some of the Xbox fan base is panicking is the belief that Elop would shut down or attempt to shut down the Xbox gaming division at Microsoft once he has the power to do so. This all stems from wild speculation based on a Bloomberg article a few months back. The article was prior to the announcement of Satya Nadella as the new Microsoft CEO and when it was believed Elop was still a contender.
Based on comments from Elop, the belief was that if elected CEO he might choose to drop what he saw as tangential businesses to Microsoft and focus on what he saw as core businesses. Meaning dropping Bing and Xbox and refocusing on things like Office and Windows. Although most people tend to overlook a key phrase in the article, stating that Elop “would also consider selling healthy businesses such as the Xbox game console if he determined they weren’t critical to the company’s strategy”. Keep in mind, this is all hearsay to begin with.
Now there’s a couple of things to consider here. Assuming this was in fact Elop’s stance, which is still unconfirmed, the statement doesn’t he would kill Xbox, merely that he would consider it, after determining whether or not it was critical to the business’ strategy. Meaning, he was taking an outsider perspective as a potential CEO and a prudent one. Once CEO, he would be able to better determine what role the Xbox division played for the company and decide whether or not it was worth continued investment. Given the positivity the brand generates for Microsoft, it might be worth keeping for that alone. Add to that the image creates for Microsoft as a consumer brand and that it gives them a presence in the living rooms of over 80 million people. It’s hard to say for certain he would have scrapped the division.
However, the point is moot, because Elop did not get the CEO gig, Nadella did. Nadella has made his support for the gaming division very clear in the past so there’s no danger to the Xbox division from him. Still, many articles I see insist on pushing the idea that because Elop previously considered the remote possibility that Xbox might need to be sold, he will do his best to scrap it as the head of Devices and Studio’s. The idea is simply ludicrous.
Elop, if he ever considered selling Xbox, was not doing so out of spite or pettiness. If he had done so, it would have been as his vision for the company as CEO. Nadella is CEO and his vision for the future of the company seems to include Xbox. Given that, Elop has no personal reason for ensuring the downfall of Xbox. Quite the opposite in fact. Xbox is the largest portion of the business he will be running and is currently a quite successful one. Given that, it would reflect badly on Elop were the division to do a sudden 180. So Elop not only has no reason to kill Xbox, he has every reason to want to see it succeed.
So at the end of the day, the panic and numerous sensationalist headlines are unwarranted. In the case of the blogs, they’re clearly just attention grabs. Whether or not he will manage to successfully run and grow the Xbox business is something no one knows, but plenty of opinions abound. However, the idea that he will intentionally try to sabotage it from within is completely baseless. So Stop Panicking People!