Nokia's Android phone: X marks the forked spot?

Nokia's Android phone: X marks the forked spot?

Summary: The Nokia X, which is expected to debut as an Asha phone running Android, may provide Microsoft with a way to get more of its apps and services on Android.


After a couple of months of leaks from various sources around the Web regarding the existence of a Nokia-branded Android phone, code-named Normandy, the Wall Street Journal is now on the "it's happening" bandwagon.


The Normandy phone, supposedly branded the Nokia X, exists, in spite of naysayers claiming that it never would or could. The Journal claims Nokia will show off the new Android-based phone at Mobile World Congress in a couple of weeks.

With the Nokia X, Nokia could replace the proprietary S30/S40 operating systems, which power its Asha phones, with a variant of the Android Open Source Project OS. (Sounds like the "unforkable" Android has been forked, to me.) The Nokia X was designed for emerging market customers and will run a variety of Microsoft and Nokia services, such as HERE maps, Skype and Xbox Music, according to various reports.

Microsoft still has yet to finalize its acquisition of Nokia, via which it will take control of Nokia's Lumia and Asha handset businesses. Some believe once the deal is finalized, which is expected before the first calendar quarter is over, Microsoft will simply kill off Nokia's Android phone.

I, myself, don't think Microsoft has plans to do any such thing.

Microsoft so far hasn't been able to get its Windows Phone OS to work on feature phones. It has had pretty good success selling some of the low-end Lumias running the Windows Phone OS into emerging markets. But the Softies haven't gotten the Windows Phone OS to work -- as far as my sources have heard -- on the Asha line.

Microsoft isn't just a devices company; it's also in the business of selling apps and services. Android constitutes the lion's share of phone OSes. An Android phone running Microsoft services and Nokia Store apps would be a lesser evil for Microsoft than an Android phone running Google services and Google Play Store apps.

It's not just on the Windows Phone side of its business that Microsoft is looking for ways to beat Google at its own game. Might Microsoft end up supporting Android apps on Windows at some point? If you'd asked me this a year or two ago, I'd have laughed. Now I have to say I think anything and everything is on the table.

Remember: Microsoft today is not Bill Gates' or Steve Ballmer's Microsoft. Microsoft's apps and services businesses need to be on all operating systems, not just Windows, to succeed. 

What do you think? Will Microsoft kill or keep the Nokia X once it finalizes its acquisition of Nokia?

Topics: Smartphones, Android, Cloud, Google, Microsoft, MWC, Windows Phone


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Makes sense

    why not have your services available on all platforms? As for supporting android apps, again, why not. If it brings more folks to your hardware and that's a good thing for MS since they are now a hardware company.
    • Makes no sense

      MS a hardware company? Good luck telling Satya Nadella to stop creating software, switch to hardware, and give up billions in revenue. He is a software / data guy to the bone. Sure MS does some hardware, more now with Nokia purchase, but software is cash cow!
      Sean Foley
      • Cant ms be..

        Cant ms be a "hardware" and software" company at the same time?
      • Sorry but failure is written all over it, the problem with this move is

        it is half assed, in ballmer era you didn't know if a product had any future or they wanted to cut it out next year but when we say Amazon it is successful since they go for it by all force without distractions or looking back! This move most probably will be bad bcz it introduces more uncertainty about MS products! with every sudden decision a lot of users go under the bus, more developers leave and their name will be tarnished even more! Now we have to see if Nadella goes into the Ballmer road and brings more failures or not?!
        • Amazon & MS aren't totally comparable

          Amazon's IT department is miniscule compared to MS. They are basically AWS and the Kindle, not that they aren't massive projects, but MS has way more so comparing them as equals doesn't really square.

          I don't see this leading to any uncertainty about MS products, if anything it strengthens them. It makes their software available on all platforms; just as things should be, platform agnostic. MS do way more than sell Windows. WP is catching up, Windows 8 is slowly being accepted, but despite that in mobile they are still a minnow. If they can get their services onto Android they will get a tonne more users who will in time perhaps come to consider using a Windows tablet.

          As for Nokia going Android, I'd never have put money on it, always assuming they could get Windows Phone onto lower powered hardware. Have Lumia 100, 200, 300 & 400 devices to replace the Asha S40 range. It is ironic that the "laggy" Android that sucks on low powered hardware has been drafted in to replace S40. But that aside it makes sense business wise, now Nokia & MS (and MS/Nokia) only need to build for Android, not split resources between Android and S40. That will open up their services to a much wider market. Now sure people buying a Nokia X will have less apps than someone buying a cheap Android phone, but they will have more apps than if they stuck with S40 Asha phones and in time I imagine they will get more Android apps into their own store.

          The ironic thing, to go back to Amazon, is that Microsoft will end up with a forked Android before Amazon despite the rumours of an Amazon phone being in existence for a lot longer than any with Nokia. If only Google & Samsung hadn't kissed and made up we could have ended up with 4 Android stores this year. As it is with Play, Amazon Marketplace and now the Nokia Store Android is getting more crowded than ever.
          • Give Up on the Laggy! lol...

            Google is moving away from Dalvik Runtime App Platform, where the Apps aren't compiled at runtime. They are now going to be compiled at install time.... once and for all time afterwards. Which means they'll not only run faster on Kit Kat Android and better..... but start up faster!

            Besides the fact that although Android is Open Source, Google's services are not and that's primarily what 1 Billion (81% market share) Android users are after. They're not after Microsoft's laggy Lumpy and Jugheaded Maps and Search or imitation YouTube sucking content junkware. They are after the SEARCH GIANT's Search Engine, Knowledge Base with Google NOW, YouTube, Google Plus, Gmail, etc.... and Google's Office Apps! Yeah.... MS Office Killing Apps after they bought QuickOffice!

            Where's M$'s Free Office online? Hasn't even launched yet and Microsoft's software development is running way behind Google's Best of Best online Software. While M$'s stuff is only best of the rest!

            Now on a Chromebook and Chrome Browser near you or directly in your Windose 8.1 install their Trojan Horse Chrome Services and Apps.... is also taking over Windows on Desktops! ;-P

            Now way...... way.... over a Billion People will all be using Google's far better Services and they wouldn't be if Microsoft really had anything to compete with them. PageRank in Google Search alone is something all their competitors covet and can never use. Along with all those Government Agencies Microsoft is still drooling over that Google has on LONGGGG TERMMMM Contracts! lol..... and need I mention having their own Google Maps Planes and an Exclusive Longggggg Termmmm Satelite Contract, that Microsoft and others have simply given up on ever getting a piece of! haha....
      • Can't get WP to run on Asha hardware

        This is directed at MJO and her oh so clued in contacts.

        OMG! Are you kidding? Why would MS even try? The Asha 503, latest and greatest Asha phone, has a scant 64 MBs of RAM installed, a 3" screen, and the mystery processor of a "feature" phone.

        The last I checked Normandy is supposed to be a slightly stripped down 520 but most likely will have 512 MBs of RAM and a similar processor. For goodness sakes, Normandy is a smartphone not a feature phone making your comparison apples to oranges.

        Obviously, MS has an agenda here but Android would no more run on Asha hardware than would WP. MS has committed to supporting upgrades for 36 months, so there's a pretty good change my 521 will get 8.1 later this year. How many 512 MBs Android devices are going to get Kit Kat?
  • Microsoft should fork Android

    Android is Open Source so its definitely time for Microsoft to Fork Android (because I assume that Google will not accept into the core their contributions), they could make it support Windows Phone Apps, Windows Phone store etc. and they could remove things that advantage Google like Chrome, data collection etc. I am sure they could get Samsung to put out a Microsoft forked version.
    Since they are the only company collecting a license revenue off Android it makes sense, plus it would be fun to see what Google will do if Microsoft is using their free OS.
    • Android is NOT open source, only the kernel is

      There is no way to remove chrome and yet be able to run apps from the play store. All that is bundled together in the google proprietary gms layer.
      Johnny Vegas
      • So,

        I can't download all the source code for Android from

        Oh, wait.....

        Android IS open source. The Google services that so many phones and tablets use may not be, but Android IS.
        • That Android does not get you much.

          Open Source in name only. Not in action for the vast majority of consumers or OEMs.
          • @ Bruizer

            This is not accurate.

            Actually it gets you far. As far as being able run Dalvik apps on Dalvik VM. But I do not know the status of ART. Still versions upto Kitkat can use either the AOSP source base or the GPE (Play edition) binary base (this is closed source for the services from Google).

            Microsoft, if it wants to, can convert Google+ and Google Maps and other API calls into Bing Maps and Bing Klout or some social sharing API calls. Technically and architecturally, it is feasible. I am not sure why Peter Bright at Ars Technica wrote an article this in infeasible. It is possible and feasible.

            The question that no one talks about is the investment cost. To build all the SDK support and API support and new appstore support, you will need money as input. You have to put developer, architect and test, support and marketing resources on this OS platform and appstore.

            May be I am wrong and may be Microsoft wants to distract the consumers away from Google's services.

            The primary problem before Microsoft is not adoption of Microsoft's specialized app software like Office on Android or iOS. Those are not productivity OS platforms yet. Their real problem is the lack of mass mobile consumer adoption of all of WP platform, WP appstore and WP mobile services including Bing. Bing has no presence on mobile platforms of any kind.

            And if Microsoft wants to be a mobile leader, making Bing win 1st or 2nd place decisively is a must and keep rivalry with Google into the future. Or they need to make peace with Google and let Google help WP rise in OS relevance on the consumer side. There are only two solutions. But neither solution is working at this point.
          • @ Bruizer

            I will also add that professionally not all of MSFT's investor relation related decisions are pleasant.

            If I was still an investor, then I would have asked MSFT to be nimble and focus on revenueshare and mindshare instead of profitshare.

            Ultimately, the existing decision set from Microsoft effectively guarantees an encroachment of MSFT's enterprise turf from Google in the near future. That would be the time that MSFT will need to decide on a much more agile organization and workforce psychology. They need to know and feel that they are in a war. But they have lost that appetite in the last 5 years.

            May be, a real ex-Iraq war or ex-Vietnam war US Army commander or Marines commander as CEO will be of better help. But I am a nobody to advise the board.
          • It is unfeasible, not bcz it is not open source but more since

            it is protected by OHA, as I said bellow they will be alone to make phones out of that fork!

          • Peter Bright at Ars Technica

            Peter Bright at Ars Technica is upset that Google won't hand over all there street view images so that others can duplicate it. He feels that Google is being unfair. Peter Bright needs to get his head examined!
            Tim Jordan
          • Thats a genetic fallacy

            and you should feel bad for using it.
          • You're Only Person Making Any Sense Here! :D

            I read through all these Microsoft Drones (not even killer bees) going on about how unfair Google is being by taking charge of their own KILLER SERVICES and just laugh. When Microsoft has gone from stealing maps and Streetview to stealing search results to YouTube content w/o expecting Google to get upset about it.... I just gotta laugh.

            Google took to killing M$'s theft of Maps by microscopically watermarking everything. Then changed up their code to kill Microsoft's thief of aggregation sites's PageRank search results. What did they all expect Google to do? Hand over the keys to PageRank Exclusive Patent, their Street view cars and exclusive satellite contracts? lol...

            Then that simply street thuggish way of making a App that stole YouTube content w/o Ads was totally asinine. Which just shows how rotten to the core Microsoft is, by still embracing their very own "Embrace Extend Extinguish" business practices like the organized Crime Syndicate they'd become, under Godfather of Dancing Monkeys in Steve Balmer! "I'm going to F...... kill Google, I've done it before and I'll do it again", throw few chairs and tantrums never worked! haha.... looking like Balmer's down and out for the count in that War now anyway!

            Then you got Apple still trying to prove they are rare Ferrari's, instead of generic Ford Clones with higher profit margins. While still thinking they should be able to sell Millions more iClones as high priced Ferrari's for ever higher Profit Margins to poor people on China Mobile!:D ......and that may be the biggest joke of all Google's competitors in the hunt to kill Android's growing 81% market share mobiles alone!

            China Mobile got their business model from a much more savvy businessman in Microsoft's Bill Gates, before Balmer came in and started doing his monkey dancing crime syndicate collector's imitation!

            Do like Bill did to make his first Billion or two or three or four. Go cross platform and make customers believe they were getting a cheaper better version of CP/M. Build in lots of bugs, Easter Eggs in it's DOS code to make a go of it in the maintenance business too. Then get Gary Kildall to agree to let you market CP/M to make him even richer. Only Bill turned around and used CP/M as a high priced 'Come On' to sell his many so called custom versions of DOS to all the PC Clones. While making them think it was totally customized for just them at a bargain price and then locking them into their software sales on top of that!

            China Mobile CEO is no dummy and instead of Apple getting them locked into an exclusive contract, they've got Apple locked in as their Gary Kildall 'Come On' to get more customers through the door to buy their own lower priced 4G LTE devices. Where they know customers can afford them, sell them apps and services w/o paying Apple any wireless subsidies too. And they can't just take their iPhones or any other phone off to their competitors, who don't even have a 4G network yet. Where China Mobile can also siphon away their competitor's customers that have TD-LTE already built in to many of their devices! Talk about smart...... China Mobile isn't the largest carrier on the planet for nothing!

            Now it's plain to see that Google is the Next Microsoft and Apple put together..... only better and growing even faster by putting Open Source to work for them and not forgetting to ever give back to the Community, like both Microsoft and Apple seem to think they can get away with! :D

            btw.... Peter Bright isn't so bright over there at Ars Technica as he'd like everyone to believe. Especially when they are showing just how back door funded they are by hiring in idiots like Ron Amadeo (thinks he's in the Mafia) to run character assassination hits on Google and Samsung! .....I long ago lost all respect for Ars Technica with that jerk acting like he knows everything about Android OS coding and Samsung hardware. We are fast peddling into the days of SCO vs IBM all over again. with Microsoft also having backdoor funded them it seems as the FAT MOUTH of Balmer's Microsoft! ;-P .....but hey? Google, IBM and Open Source are still around and that's got to be a thorn in Balmer and M$'s side for sure!
      • Maybe Nokia doesn't have to care about the Play store

        I doubt it would make sense to start their own store, but Nokia could point their phones to the Amazon android store, right? I don't get the whole thing about wanting to watch movies and read e-books on a 3-inch screen, but apparently some people do. And I'm sure Amazon has a full compliment of bird games, fart apps, and all the other essentials. I can't see why Nokia - or even more so Microsoft - would spend a minute or a nickel trying to implement Google or their store.
        • Amazon App Store

          The Amazon App Store isn't available in every country. There's quite a few alternatives that have a global reach; AppsLib, SlideMe, and F-Droid
        • Nokia can do their own store

          Why shouldn't they create their own store though? Between the old Ovi store and Microsoft's Store they have the skills and backend in place; all they need are the apps. They evidently have ported a lot of old Asha S40 apps, and Microsoft are porting their services - that's a start and then getting 3rd parties to submit to their store shouldn't be hard considering many are already doing that for Play & Amazon. In theory if they have been planning this for long enough they can launch with more apps that people need than exist just now on S40 devices. That would give them a nice additional revenue stream and also potentially scupper Amazon's plans for a Kindle based phone.

          I don't think MS would ever have made an Android phone, but Nokia might just have gifted them a golden apple.