Microsoft buys Nokia’s mobile hardware business for $7.17 billion; Elop to replace Ballmer as CEO?

After an apparently lengthy courting process involving outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Nokia CEO (and former Microsoft honcho) Stephen Elop, the beleaguered Windows Phone operator has agreed to purchase Nokia’s hardware division for a little over $7 billion, as reported by AllThingsD. 

Aside from Elop’s MSFT connections, the companies are certainly no strangers to working with one another, as Windows Phone’s most popular models such as the Lumia are manufactured by Nokia. Q2 sales of Lumia handsets measured 7.2 million units, according to MSFT’s presser. As part of the deal, Microsoft will also take hold of Nokia’s patent library in a 10-year, non-exclusive license package.

Kara Swisher also thinks this move positions Elop as the natural heir apparent as CEO of Microsoft.