Two firms largely left in the dust by the smartphone era are set to become one with Microsoft's $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia's cell phone business. "It's a bold step into the future," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who plans to step down within a year. Nokia chief Stephen Elop—a former Microsoft exec—will be among the 32,000 Nokia employees transferring to Microsoft, and the New York Times thinks the deal makes him Ballmer's most likely successor.
Ballmer wouldn't speculate on that in an interview with The Verge, saying that the board was considering both internal and external candidates. "Stephen Elop happens to be going from external to internal." He also revealed that the deal was in the works before his resignation announcement. The deal—Microsoft's second-largest, after its 2011 Skype buy—will be finalized early next year unless it is blocked by regulators or Nokia shareholders, USA Today reports. It plays into Microsoft's strategy of becoming more of a devices company than a pure software one, the Wall Street Journal notes. Both companies have fallen behind in the smartphone wars, with Microsoft's current marketshare at just 3%, and Nokia's sales in an extended nosedive. (Read more cell phone industry stories.)