Windows Phone and Android to meet in 'Normandy'?

A Nokia Android phone running a Windows Phone interface and Microsoft services might not be as outlandish as it might initially sound.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor on

A Nokia handset running Android -- something many first believed to be a mock-up or a test model -- may, in fact, be a real product that potentially could see the light of day.


More leaked images of the alleged Nokia 'Normandy' handset have been hitting the Web as of late. The most recent, posted on January 16 by @evleaks, shows an operating system that looks very much like the Windows Phone interface grafted onto Android, as one of his screen shots above indicates.

The thinking, supposedly, is Normandy would be a good entry-level phone for emerging markets. Tom Warren at The Verge said he's heard from one source that the device will sport a 4-inch display, a Qualcomm S4 processor, 4 GB of storage and 512 MB of RAM. I've heard from one source of my own that Normandy is running a custom version of Android built on the Android Open Source Project code base. The screen shots from @evleaks make it appear it will run Nokia's Camera, Here maps, Skype and other Windows Phone services.

Doubters have wondered why Nokia -- a company that's made an almost wholesale bet on the Windows Phone OS (with the exception of the Asha platform) , and whose handset business is in the process of being absorbed by Microsoft -- would build anything with Android inside. 

This kind of hybrid OS might be a way to introduce new users to the Windows Phone interface with less transition pain. Or it could be just one example of a handset that could run either Android or Windows Phone. Microsoft reportedly has discussed with other phone makers the feasability of allowing carriers and/or users to choose between Android and the Windows Phone OS on the same handset, both I and some others have heard from various sources.

Earlier reports seemed to indicate that Microsoft might have been proposing to handset makers that they provide users with a dual-boot Android/Windows Phone OS option, which seemed ludicrous bordering on suicidal to me. But an Android OS variant which looks and feels like a Windows Phone OS sibling or cousin -- as wild as that sounds at first -- actually makes more sense strategy-wise for Microsoft, in my opinion.

Think about it: Microsoft wants to be a devices and services company. If you buy a handset that runs at least some Microsoft services and apps, Microsoft is guaranteed to earn at least some revenues from that transaction. If a user foregoes Windows Phone as it stands now in favor of an iPhone or Android phone, Microsoft will likely make far less from that potential customer. Of course, Microsoft's preference would be for that handset to be all Microsoft, with a pure version of Windows Phone OS inside. But an Android core with Microsoft apps and services is the next best thing, isn't it?

On a related note, Microsoft seemingly is continuing with its practice of providing handset makers with marketing monies to help them spread the Windows Phone gospel, as Microsoft Corporate Communications Vice President Frank Shaw acknowledged in a tweet this week. (The size of the sums and the purposes to which they are being put is the source of various rumors and debate.) 

Do you think Microsoft is going to allow this Normandy handset to come to market? I'm increasingly thinking the answer is yes. And I'm starting to think that Normandy may not be the only Android/Windows Phone hybrid handset we see in 2014. What's your take?

Update: GigaOm's Kevin Tofel has a good post which posits that the OS powering the Normandy handset is basically the replacement OS for the S40 powering Asha.  Good food for thought.

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