Nokia X Great Debate: I still don't think Android is worth the effort

Nokia X Great Debate: I still don't think Android is worth the effort

Summary: Nokia could have gone with Android a couple of years ago and had the leading Android camera phone line and maybe even leading smartphone brand today, but rolling out a Kindlefied version on low end hardware isn't a recipe for success.

Nokia X Great Debate: I lost, but still think Android is not the way to go at this time
(Image: Nokia)

I have never been pleased with low end Android devices, even with support for all of the Google services, but ZDNet's Great Debate moderator Larry Dignan and the masses think Nokia and Microsoft made the right decision going with a customized Android experience. I lost this week's ZDNet Great Debate, but even with Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols' strong arguments I remain unconvinced it is the right thing to do at this time.

Android would have been a great choice for Nokia back when Stephen Elop took over and they decided to drop Symbian and MeeGo support. While there were a lot of manufacturers making Android smartphones, Nokia could have come in and blew even Samsung away with fantastic high end Android camera phones. I like what they have done with Windows Phone, but growth and sales have been limited by Microsoft and like HTC in the past with Windows Mobile there is only so much a manufacturer can do.

That was a couple of years ago and now they are launching the Amazon Kindle version of an Android device that is heavily focused on Nokia and Microsoft services with an older version of Android on devices with lower end specs. As I said in my arguments of the debate, I foresee Microsoft killing this off in a few months to focus on Windows Phone. Shoot, with Windows Phone devices priced less than $75 with no contract, how much lower can an Android Nokia X be priced?

Topics: Mobility, Android, Microsoft, Nokia, Smartphones

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  • You are right.

    With WP 8.1 already in the horizon, Nokia X is a mistake. I am sure Nokia X will be replaced with WP8.1, the OS is capable of running on the cheapest hardware without comprising performance.
    • Exactly

      W/ Android, you'd have to beef the hardware spec up by 70% at least to get the same smooth UX WP offers. That's just not worth it.
      • Minimum hardware

        Yes UX WP has a performance advantage from greater use of machine code whereas Android previously relied on a virtual machine and byte codes. This changed in Kit Kat where you now have the option of compiling apps into machine code at install time. In the next release it will no longer be optional.

        One possible advantage for Nokia having an Android option is that they may take on Google's restrictive licensing to allow access to the Google Play store. After that it would be easy to extend WP so that the Android Run Time environment can run on top.
        gwilo graham
        • 1973 DOJ and Telex Corporation win against IBM.

          In 1968 IBM's share of mainframes had been as high as 90%. Having so large a market share gives a company an almost unassailable advantage due to funds for R&D and marketing plus economies of scale in production.

          One way IBM cemented its advantage was by not releasing specifications that would allow a plug-compatible peripheral market. Competing mainframe makers therefore would be required to develop a full set of peripherals.

          Although there are differences, this reminds me of the current Android business model: Android itself is free and open source, but the key advantage is in the access to the Google Mobile Services and that requires a restricted license.

          The GMS is like IBM with its 90% market share. The Apps are like the peripherals. Such an arrangement is of benefit if you have 90% market share. It is a disadvantage to the rest.
          gwilo graham
          • but Google doesn't control 90% of the market

            Depending on which reports you read, only about 40-50% of the Android market actually has Google services on it. Many run forked versions or have their own application markets installed.

            Even Samsung is looking like they will either fork Android to their own version with their own services or make a switch to their own operating system.

            I do think it is possible that Google may find itself in a very similar situation as IBM did with mainframes, but it is also just as likely that Google looses any form of control over Android and it spins out of control in every direction.
          • The $'s are in the services not the licenses

            Google does not charge for licensing but requires certification by third parties before a device maker can access their mobile services: search, maps, etc. The whole point of this strategy is to reinforce a dominant position in those services. The revenue comes from advertising.

            Yes there are variations of Android that do not have Google services:

            CyanogenMod. Back in late 2009 Google sent a cease and desist letter to CyanogenMod's chief developer, Steve Kondik to prevent them from bundling the "Google Experience" in with CyanogenMod. This dispute was ultimately resolved via a mechanism that allows the installer to backup the "Google Experience" that came with the phone and reinstall it on top of CyanogenMod.

            Kindle. As this is basically book an e-Reader it's irrelevant in the argument.

            Xiaomi and other Chinese / non-English forks that have huge market share.

            I think this misses the point completely. The market for services is where the money is, and it includes services accessed via web browsers as well as mobile devices.

            In the public interest, the interface to these services needs to have minimal exclusions. Most importantly there should be no restrictions on the Java "write once run anywhere" philosophy, App developers should be able to retail their apps through multiple stores and expect them to run without modification on any platform.

            Likewise if a device maker gives prominence to one provider of services, their clients should not be excluded from purchasing applications from other stores.
            gwilo graham
          • Control Freaks

            "but it is also just as likely that Google looses [sic] any form of control over Android and it spins out of control in every direction."

            That sounds a lot like the arguments IBM used at the time!

            Android has three layers:
            1. Linux mod to support next layer to be merged back into root.
            2. A variation of the Sun invented Java platform subject to ongoing dispute
            3. Google Mobile Services

            Google's rights to control layers 1 and 2 are doubtful given that they are based on prior IP.

            I personally have no objections when Google dictate some restrictions to GMS. For example in the next release all Apps in the Google Play store must be able to run in the compiled Android Run Time environment. A minority of them currently don't. It my however be in their interests to move these existing Apps to a legacy section.

            Nokia and Microsoft however will not feel comfortable with Android efficiency catching up with WP.

            What I do object to is control that has the primary purpose of reinforcing a dominant market position in services with little or no advantage to the consumer.
            gwilo graham
    • You sure?

      I doubt W8/WP8 would run on the processor.

      In fact, it won't run on most ARM architectures. It would have to be ported first at a minimum. Then there are the memory limitations...
      • WP8 runs smoother than Android on the same hardware

        so I don't see what the issue might be.
        • If that were true, then I would have expected Nokia to use it.

          They didn't.

          I expect it would first need some porting to the specific ARM... then it would need a diet.

          Not that it COULDN'T be done - but it is cheaper to use something that already works.
      • Dual boot

        Not sure if you are correct as there is a push for dual booting either Android/WP8. This has less to do with user then with supply chains and selling one hardware in a store that can run various OSs.

        So I don't think there is a big processor differentiation between Android and WP8.
        Rann Xeroxx
    • This is all a ruse

      Doesn't anybody think it suspicious that all of MS detractors are pushing it to give up on Windows / Windows Phone client, while at the same time cheering on Android and iOS to mop up the client OS market? They simply want Microsoft to give up its golden geese. Having your own client OSs gives you direct access to customers, an army of developers, an enthusiast community, etc. People in the Microsoft ecosystem generally identify themselves first with Windows client. With the Windows clients gone, they will simply identify themselves first with other client platforms, and then MS' competitors will systematically undermine MS' cloud services with their own, likely sidelining MS on their own platforms as well. This is all a ruse by MS detractors, and I'm surprised MS appears to be falling for it.
      P. Douglas
      • Do we really have that much influence?

        MS' detractors convinced MS and Nokia to go against their own interests? If we have that much influence, how come we haven't been able to get MS out of the patent trolling business?
        John L. Ries
  • could have went?

    Someone could have did a grammar check.
    Richard M. Urinalman
    • sheesh...

      is that all you have to contribute? Grammar Nazis...a dime a dozen, infesting every forum.
      • Authors do need to be reminded periodically

        The professional thing to do is to check spelling and reread the article before posting, but it appears that ZDNet's authors sometimes forget.
        John L. Ries
        • Sure they need to be reminded,

          but when a commenter uses a rather odd "name" and that is all they have to
          comment on? Besides, this forum isn't a bastion of English prose
          Anyway, my post actually served two purposes...
          1. Grammar Nazis deserve to be called out.
          2. More importantly, it was a test of the comment system. I had not been
          able to post for a couple of weeks, and filed a bug report. So, this post was
          the first successful comment I had posted in a while!
          Features are being developed, I'm told, and apparently I was caught in a bug!
          A peril of being a moderator I guess, as the specifics were not divulged.
          It is, however, appreciated to have posting ability restored!
  • Kindlefied Definition

    Kindlefied - [kin-dill-fy-d]
    Adjective- 1. Describes the transformation of an Android operating system into a system with less features and proprietary addons. Does not include Google play which was the only benefit of using Android to begin with.
    Sean Foley
    • That would be an exaggeration

      The only thing I really use Google Play for is to download applications. And I use Maps (including the navigation system) from time to time.

      I consider both to be replaceable.
      John L. Ries
  • Nobody cares, nobody cares...

    Nokia is dying and Microsoft is dead to developers.