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

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.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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?

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