I've been an outspoken critic of Google Android, doubting Google's fitness for producing smartphone software and wondering if Android and Windows Mobile will be the two platforms that get squeezed out of the smartphone market. But, a new report that Nokia is a developing an Android smartphone could change the fortunes of the platform. Nokia is disputing the report, but it's easy to wonder if this pairing could be a partnership that would help both sides fight off fierce new challenges from Apple, BlackBerry, and Palm.
The report, which The Guardian attributes to "industry insiders," states that Nokia is expected to release an Android-based smartphone at its Nokia World event in September in Stuttgart, Germany.
A Nokia spokesperson disputed the report in an interview with Reuters. "Absolutely no truth to this whatsoever... Everyone knows that Symbian is our preferred platform for advanced mobile devices," said the Nokia representative.
Nokia bought out Symbian in 2008, but instead of bringing it in-house the Finnish phone maker spun it out into an open platform run by the Symbian Foundation. This move was largely seen as a shot across the bow at Android, the other big open platform.
Symbian has not received overwhelming support from developers, but it won't be until 2010 that the OS will be fully open sourced and that the first Symbian Foundation-powered smartphones will arrive.
While Android has received only slightly more developer support, because of its association with Google it has received far more hype and buzz. Nevertheless, the first generation G1 and even the second generation Ion are merely adequate devices that are least one step behind Apple iPhone and Palm Pre.
Reportedly, there are at least 18 new Android phones coming from at least eight different manufacturers by the end of 2009, according to Google. I'll believe that when I see it. We're already six months into 2009 and there's only one Android phone available and two more announced.
As I've argued before, for Android to succeed I think it needs one strong hardware partner. Then, that hardware partner can partner with Google on strong hardware/software integration on a range of different smartphone models and devices that can be branded under the powerful Google brand name.
Nokia could be a great partner. It is the number one smartphone seller worldwide, but it's also under tremendous pressure from the big three rivals mentioned above and the Symbian S60 platform that runs most Nokia smartphones is not nearly as sophisticated or user-friendly as iPhone OS, webOS, or even Android. So Nokia should also be motivated to make a bold move.
That said, since Nokia just finalized the Symbian Foundation deal earlier this year and it has yet to release a device based on the new Symbian software, it's doubtful that Nokia would be doing anything more than dipping its toe in the water with Android at this point.