Nokia's Android X: Madness or Genius for Microsoft?

Summary:Will Microsoft keep or kill Nokia's new Android phones?

Matthew Miller

Matthew Miller

Madness

or

Genius

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Best Argument: Genius

43%
57%

Audience Favored: Genius (57%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Windows Phone finally gaining momentum

I've been using Windows Phone since the beginning and while I may currently be frustrated with Microsoft I do think that Nokia and Microsoft offer a compelling low cost solution and there is no need to jump into the highly competitive and over saturated Android market.

Windows Phone is gaining market share in select areas around the globe. At MWC 2014 Microsoft talked about their steady growth and pointed to the IDC report recognizing Windows Phone as the fastest growing OS with a 91 percent year-over-year growth. It has taken people time to try Windows Phone, but with a few nice Nokia devices available for less than $100 with no contract I would like to see Nokia and Microsoft give it a go without Android for another six months.

With Windows Phone finally gaining some real momentum, Nokia soon becoming a part of Microsoft, and both offering compelling services on devices at low entry prices I think it is madness for Nokia to now be spending resources on Android. Nokia tried supporting several operating systems in the past and they soon won't even be Nokia so we know how well that worked out.

The future of Microsoft's smartphones

I have little hope for Windows 8.x on tablets or PCs . I think Windows 7 will continue to be Microsoft's best-selling operating system for years to come  And, I am dead certain that Android, and not Windows Phone, represents Microsoft's real mobile operating system future .

Why? Because Windows Phone is going nowhere fast while Androids owns the smartphone market .  At best, Windows Phone will be the distant number three in the smartphone operating system. Is that where Microsoft really wants to be?

Or, wouldn't Microsoft be happier continuing its move into being a services and hardware company? I mean, if Microsoft can get the billion plus Android users  to use Outlook, Office 365, and OneDrive instead of Gmail, Google Apps, and Google Drive isn't that a net win for Microsoft? It sure sounds like one to me.

Who would Microsoft rather be? The software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider for hundreds of millions or the operating system provider for millions?  I know which one my stockholders would appreciate more.

 

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Welcome back to our Great Debate

    This week's topic covers the impact of Nokia's new Android smartphones. How's Microsoft and its new CEO going to take it? Is it an embarrassment in Redmond or part of the plan? Our smartphone expert, Matthew Miller, and our Android guru, Steven J. Vaughan Nichols clash over the titans. Are we ready?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    I'm ready

    Nokia is blowing it by messing with Android instead of boosting Windows.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Madness

    Let's go

    Shouldn't Microsoft take the easy way to more riches and embrace Android instead of trying to build up its own OS which doesn't have a chance to rise above third place in the smartphone market?

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Genius

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Forked future

    Is it realistic to think that a forked version of Android is going to be a gateway to Windows Phone?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    No: It's hard to kick habits

    I don't think any mobile OS serves as a good gateway to another in the same form factor. I think you could go from an Android phone to an iPad, but that is from a phone to a tablet. Most people tend to find an OS they like and then they populate it with games, apps, and media content. They don't want to repurchase these items when transitioning to another OS.

    It's not likely that people will jump from Android to Windows Phone, especially when they find that there are still apps found on Android and not on Windows Phone despite some great strides made to close the app gap.

    There is the very real danger that people come to like Android as an OS and then graduate to high end Android devices from Samsung, HTC, Sony, or Lenovo.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Madness

    Nope: Avoid confusion

    People will be ticked off when they discover that they can't port their apps from one platform to the other. I think Microsoft has learned its lessons about not confusing customers after the Windows 8.x and Windows RT debacle.  I mean, I still get non-tech-savvy people asking me why they can't run their copies of Quicken on RT.

    But, what Microsoft might do is retire Windows Phone for what I like to call MS-Android . Now that, that I think could get some serious market-share.

    Get them hooked with cheap MS-Android phones and offer then a whole line up to top-of-the-line phones that will get people's attention at the 2015 MWC.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Genius

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Living with Android

    How would you rate Microsoft's ability to reskin Android much like Amazon has?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    They can but...

    Amazon has created an interface optimized for their content and store experience. I think what we will see from Microsoft will be an interface much like Windows Phone with a focus on Microsoft and Nokia services.

    They will be able to reskin it as desired, I just don't think they will make it be a very unique experience with their focus on the Tile user interface across all of their products.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Madness

    Learn lessons from Kindle

    I think they can do it. Amazon, which had never produced a user-device before, managed to
    build great tablets such as the Kindle Fire HDX , why not Microsoft and Nokia?

    OK, so Microsoft's record on mobile devices has been, well, lousy, and it's been ages
    since Nokia's had a bonafide hit, but working together I can see them coming up with
    something great.

    Or, let me put it this way: Together I think they have a much better shot using Android
    as the base platform than going their own way. After all., we'll see 1.1-billion Android users  in 2014. Even 10 percent of that would be more than 100 percent of Windows Phone's market-share .

    Besides the front-end device is only part of the story. Microsoft has the cloud infrastructure and services that needed to support a 21st century mobile device.  If Microsoft can't do it, I don't know who could.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Genius

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Developer reaction?

    Does Nokia's move to use Android demoralize Windows developers?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Risks getting tired of Microsoft

    That's an interesting question and I would like to speak with some developers about their thoughts. Nokia has spent a lot of time and money on Windows Phone developer initiatives and it seems to be a bit of a slap in the face to them now.

    While Nokia will continue to release high end Windows Phone devices, it's not clear what they are going to do with the most popular low-end Lumia devices. There seems to be a bit of a risk that Windows Phone developers will grow tired of Microsoft's changing strategy and focus on iOS and Android.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Madness

    Low morale

    Most of the Windows Phone specific developers I know already had morale so low that it
    can only be reached by submarine.  But, there are very few of them around.

    According to VisionMobile most mobile developers write applications for 2.9 operating
    systems. The top three platforms in terms of popularity? Android, iOS and HTML5.
    Windows comes in a distant fourth.

    Like all Microsoft's other mobile operating systems, Windows Phone 7 and 8 haven't caught
    on. The developers with money in their pockets are developing in Apple's iOS and/or
    Android. I think that Windows Phone programmers would be pleased as punch to be able to
    devote their efforts to just the big three platforms.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Genius

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Out of Windows Phone's range?

    Is Nokia's move basically acknowledging that Windows Phone is challenged in emerging markets?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Confusing strategy

    I honestly don't understand Nokia's move. Their best selling Windows Phones are the low-end models like the Lumia 500 series and they are available around the world at a very low price. Are they really going to achieve a much lower selling price with these Nokia X devices?

    Windows Phone is starting to gain a bit of traction and has now bested BlackBerry to become the third most popular mobile OS. I would think they would want to continue this strategy and with Microsoft owning Nokia's devices soon they could save on the licensing fees and sell the low-end models in emerging markets for even less than they do now.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Madness

    Windows Phone is lost

    I'm not sure Windows Phone is anymore challenged in emerging markets than others. That
    same VisionMobile study found that Windows Phone development is actually strongest in South Asia. Go figure!

    Even where Microsoft does best, Europe, Android's still the top smartphone dog with a 68.5 percent share; Apple is second with 19.0 percent while Windows Phone has 10.1 percent in the latest quarter. That sounds good... until you realize that's a slight decline from last quarter's 10.3 percent.

    No Nokia's move really acknowledges what we all know: Windows Phone isn't taking off anywhere.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Genius

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Why not?

    Strategically, there's an argument for Microsoft to use Android what's the argument
    against such a move?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Fear of putting Google in charge

    Android is not in Microsoft or Nokia's control, and while they are customizing the user interface if the back end doesn't adapt or is eventually dropped by Google, then there is not much Microsoft can do. Microsoft owns Windows Phone and can do what it wishes to optimize the OS for mobile.

    While Microsoft and Nokia will be working hard to tie in their services to Android, those connections could be broken in future Android updates.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Madness

    Ideological defeat

    If Microsoft does go all in on Android it will be an ideological defeat. Ballmer would
    never has the nerve to make a move like that, I think Nadella's more about the bottom
    line rather than staying true to a failing mobile operating system religion.

    Besides, Amazon has shown that they can create a product that uses Android as its base
    while giving users a uniquely Amazon experience. I see no reason why Microsoft can't do
    the same thing by offering Microsoft’s services – Office 365 and Outlook.com, OneDrive
    cloud storage for consumers and businesses, communications via Lync and Skype--in place of Gmail and Google Apps and Google Drive and Google+ Hangouts .

    Sure, it won't look good to tech analysts and journalists, but I doubt the buyer public will care.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Genius

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Porting to the Nokia X platform

    Do you expect Android developers to port their apps to Nokia's X platform? Why or why
    not?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    It's about the money

    If it is not too timely or difficult then I think Android developers may get their apps in the Nokia Android store. They want to sell as many apps as possible and Nokia has a wide reach.

    They may hold off a bit to see how well the Nokia X line does because one danger of spending lots of time porting to the Nokia X is that Microsoft may kill the project like it did with the Kin.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Madness

    It won't happen

    Developers who rely on Google services for their apps won't be moving to Nokia X, but
    there's no reason what-so-ever that everyone else wouldn't switch over. All Microsoft and
    Nokia has to do is make sure that this happens is to make application programming interfaces (API)s are Android-friendly and—ta-da!--instantly filled application store.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Genius

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Does the OS matter?

    Do you think the flavor of OS in emerging markets matters to smartphone buyers?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    No big deal

    I don't think the flavor of the OS matters too much in emerging markets, which is why I am not convinced Android is any better than Windows Phone. Windows Phone flies on low-end hardware and we have seen time and again that low-end Android devices usually suck.

    Android requires more hardware resources than Windows Phone and has not proven to be as stable as Windows Phone. The Android experience on the Nokia X appears similar to the Live Tile experience on Lumia devices so why go with an inferior OS for the low-end market?

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Madness

    Techies care, users don't

    Here's a dirty little secret in all markets. Techies care about operating systems, users
    don't. People buy devices because of the look, the feel-in-the-hand, the brand and, oh
    yes, the apps. If any platform has the apps people want, it has a chance, if it doesn't. It's really that simple.

    That's why Android makes so much sense. It has over a million apps . Sure, a lot of them are junk, but it's still a million apps and many of them are apps people want.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Genius

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Price challenge

    Would Microsoft have been better off offering Windows Phone for free in emerging
    markets to be more price competitive?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Timing doesn't make sense

    Absolutely and with Microsoft soon owning Nokia why can't they offer Windows Phone for free to themselves? The timing of this is what really doesn't make sense to me. If Nokia had launched the X line a couple of years ago while also making Lumia Windows Phones then I would have understood it as a strategy to see which will be more successful moving forward.

    At this time, I see the Nokia X project as a temporary test project that Microsoft may soon kill off when there is very little ROI compared to low-end Lumias.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Madness

    Playing the blame game

    No, again, I don't think Windows Phone is less competitive in greenfield markets. I think
    it's less competitive everywhere. Perhaps Nokia and company just thinks it sounds better
    to blame this move on weak emerging markets, but that more an excuse than a reason.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Genius

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Too many OSes?

    Should Nokia's X range take off, Microsoft will have four operating systems to
    support? Is it capable of supporting four -- Windows Phone, Android Open Source Project
    (AOSP), Series 40 and its Asha OS offspring?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Already struggling

    Absolutely not, they are struggling to do it now with Windows 8.1, RT, and Windows Phone. Nokia has tried this in the past and ended up killing off MeeGo and variants of Symbian. Nokia was focused solely on the phone market and couldn't support too many operating system. Microsoft's mobile strategy so far still seems to be more of an afterthought and simply a sway to get Microsoft's services into people's hands.

    Microsoft needs to stay focused on Windows Phone and making it work across the entire price spectrum. I understand the Asha line for very cheap devices and think having this and Windows Phone is a reasonable expectation. Series 40 will soon be killed off.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Madness

    Stay with the best

    They could, but they shouldn't. I'd drop Windows Phone on the smartphone line and move
    all of them to AOSP. On the feature phone side, I'd pick either Series 40 and Asha and
    push it as hard as I can while showing the loser the door.

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Genius

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Pick and choose

    Would it have made sense for Nokia to keep Symbian for lower model phones? How about
    MeeGo?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Stay with Asha

    Before adopting Windows Phone, MeeGo was a promising alternative with a decent support community and could have been a solid competitor to Android. Nokia killed it before it gained much traction, but it would have made sense to keep it going with Windows Phone.

    Symbian was a powerful OS for a long time, but the Asha strategy made more sense for the lower-priced line and I think that was the right strategy for Nokia. There was too much work needed to support Symbian going forward.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Madness

    It's too late to turn back now

    Those trains have already left the station for Microsoft/Nokia. On January 1st, 2014,
    Nokia stopped developers from adding any new or updated Symbian and MeeGo programs to the Nokia store .

    The last Symbian phone shipped in June 2013.  MeeGo lives on as Sailfish OS on phones
    from the Finnish startup Jolla, but it no longer shares a future with Microsoft/Nokia.  These moves were years in the making and there's no gong back now

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Genius

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Should Microsoft drop Android?

    Once Microsoft closes the Nokia deal should the company kill these Android-ish devices?

    Posted by Larry Dignan

    Yes

    Yes, Microsoft needs to stay focused on Windows Phone for its smartphones and Asha for the emerging markets. It's a waste of resources to spend time maintaining an Android line that will not be as reliable and dependable as Windows Phones.

    Microsoft won't have to pay itself licensing fees for Windows Phone so should be able to further reduce the cost of the Lumia line for worldwide sales at the low end.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for Madness

    No

    In one word: "No!" Embrace your Android future Microsoft!

    Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

    I am for Genius

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Great Debate

    Thanks for joining us again. What's Microsoft going to do with Nokia after the sale goes through? I think our debaters gave both sides of the story and only time will tell who is right. Don't forget to check out the closing statements on Wednesday and my final verdict on Thursday. Plus, don't forget the comments and add your own opinion. Vote!

    Posted by Larry Dignan

Closing Statements

Quit confusing customers - drop Android

Matthew Miller

There are plenty of low-priced Android devices already in the marketplace and most of them suck. Nokia's low priced Windows Phones, available today for around just $50, offer a stabile, responsive experience with a full suite of apps and services that cannot be matched by the same device running Android.

Windows Phone is an OS that must be tried to be appreciated. Nokia's recent ability to offer low-priced devices is having an impact as people are finally using Windows Phone and enjoying the experience. Now is not the time to confuse buyers with yet another mobile operating system on Nokia hardware. Microsoft has confused enough consumers with Windows 8 and RT, they don't need to now do it with Android and Windows Phone.

Hopefully Microsoft kills this Nokia Android idea as quickly as it did the Kin since it is not the right strategy as they prepare to roll out a major update with Windows Phone 8.1.

Another word for third place? Loser

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

To quote Gordon Gekko, the protagonist villian from the movie Wall Street, "It's all about bucks, kid. The rest is conversation." While Gekko's a bad, bad man, he's not wrong.

If Microsoft really wants to make money from the mobile market, it's time for them to cut their Windows Phone losses and ride a Microsoft cloud-services powered Android for all its worth.

You can talk all you want about how Windows Phone is now a viable third place runner in the mobile operating system races. You know what's another word for third place? Loser.

Android has the sheer numbers of users and applications. Apple iOS has the most profitable application developers. Windows Phone? Please.

Nokia has shown the way for Microsoft to gain a real shot at profiting from the smartphone market. They'd be fools to turn their backs on it, and I don't think the new generation of Microsoft leadership are fools.

Maybe Nokia's move is genius

Larry Dignan

When Nokia launched an Android phone ahead of being acquired by Microsoft, I thought the idea was nutty. In many respects, I still do think the idea is a bit wacky. However, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols made a compelling case in his rebuttal and swayed me from the "madness" argument made by Matthew Miller. Toss in the crowd vote and maybe Nokia's move is genius. Of course, Nokia and Microsoft need to execute.

Topics: Great Debate

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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