Rumours that Nokia is about to sell its smartphone division to Microsoft and that CEO Stephen Elop will jump after closing the deal have been denied yet again by the Finnish phone-makers.
The suggestion that Nokia will sell off their crown jewels to Redmond has been rebuffed before, and even had an impact on the markets last year, but despite the Finns repeated denials, the rumour simply won't go away.
The source of the most recent batch of stories is Mobile-Review publisher and Russian tech blogger (Russian and English) Eldar Murtazin, who believes that the deal is imminent and that it will spell the end of the Finnish phone company.
It's not the first time Murtazin has made this claim, nor his first punching match with Nokia honchos, which include a highly publicised punch-up in which the Finnish phonemaker "sicced Russian authorities on him to get back as-yet-unreleased Nokia property". As El Reg pointed out at the time Murtazin first made his claim, he has a decent record of accurately predicting other moves by the company...
According to Murtazin, Elop will meet Microsoft's Steve Ballmer in Las Vegas today, and he alleged on his Twitter account that it wasn't just for a light lunch:
Steve Balmer, Andy Lees and Stephen Elop, Kai Ostamo will meet in Las Vegas to finalize agreement about Nokia smartphone unit. Bye Nokia
Murtazin then went into a little more detail on the supposed arrangements: "Stephen Elop will be resign as Nokia CEO in 2012", adding "(I told that several times but repeat again)".
He said that the Nokia brand wouldn't be used for the new Microsoft smartphones, and that one or two production plants would likely change hands with the deal which he expected in the second half of 2012.
Murtazin said that the cost of maintaining phone-producing plants was starting to tell on Nokia's balance sheets, and that the company couldn't maintain their levels of expenditure.
Microsoft could be interested in Nokia's thick wad of patents and could possibly wish to shore up their hardware capabilities following Google's purchase of of Motorola. Microsoft's track record on hardware is mixed: the XBox has been a big success but a previous attempt at a phone – the teen-focused Kin – flopped in 2009.
Nokia's UK communications manager David Hall denied the rumours once again:
"We have firmly scotched rumours of the smartphone division being sold to Microsoft," he said. "We have knocked them on the head time and time again."
Hall added that he didn't know Stephen Elop's diary so could not confirm whether the Nokia chief was meeting Microsoft hardman Steve Ballmer today or not, though allowed that it was possible that both men would be in town with CES. "If he is it would be in connection with our long-term partnership". ®