14 Comments

Summary:

A Nokia-built Android phone might actually help Microsoft. It could reduce costs but the bigger benefit is this: Every such phone built on the platform is one less phone for Google to earn ad money or gather user data.

Lumia 1520 size comparison
photo: Alex Colon

With Nokia’s hardware division becoming part of Microsoft, you’d think that building phones based on Android would be like cheating on a spouse. Let’s call it more like “playing the field with permission,” as Nokia reportedly does have an Android phone in the works and it might not be a bad idea for Microsoft if that handset comes to market.

Back in 2010, I thought the time was right for Nokia to dump its then up-and-coming MeeGo platform and go with Android. I still wonder what would have happened. That didn’t occur though, and as we all know, Nokia opted for Windows Phone in 2011 to be its primary smartphone platform. To its credit, Nokia sales are on the rise and Microsoft’s market share of Windows Phone continues to grow as a result. There’s still opportunity from Windows Phone alternatives though.

Look to Amazon if you doubt that. It uses Android — the free Android Open Source Project, or AOSP, software — for example on its Kindle Fire tablets. As a result, Amazon doesn’t pay for the platform and it can control the entire user experience; something that you can only typically do with your own software if you make hardware.

An AOSP-powered Nokia handset could enjoy the same benefits and Microsoft could reap the rewards.

How? By using freely available software, Microsoft could customize the experience and, to some extent, replicate that of Windows Phone without investing much. That could be helpful and cost-effective for Nokia handsets in the fast-growing low-price or mid-range phone segments.

Nokia Lumia City Lens

With control over the software, Nokia can also integrate both its and Microsoft’s services into the handset experience. Think Nokia Here, CityLens, Bing, Skype, Office, and SkyDrive to name a few. Microsoft could use the base Android software to build a Microsoft-centric phone that has no ties to Google’s services at all. If Microsoft were to add those services, which obviously doesn’t make sense for it to do so, it would have to pay Google.

There’s another benefit as well, although it’s not very obvious, nor would it help Microsoft’s overall Windows Phone initiative: More mobile apps to offer.

Again, take the Kindle Fire tablets for example.

KindleFireHDXLandscapeAngleLeft

Developers with Android apps don’t need to change much for the same apps to run on Amazon’s hardware. Microsoft could leverage the hundreds of thousands of currently available Android apps for Nokia-built Android phones. Of course, more apps for the “Android version” of Microsoft’s handsets could be looked upon as a Windows Phone detriment, so the company would have to be careful here.

If nothing else, every Android-powered phone built by Nokia for Microsoft would be one less “win” for Google.

Since the phones wouldn’t use any Google services by default, Google gains nothing: No revenue and no user data, which is where it makes its money. Such a move, if successful, could blunt Google’s momentum. Android would still be a dominant OS, but it wouldn’t matter for these phones: Microsoft would reap all of the ad and service revenues while keeping information from mobile device users out of Google’s hands.

My colleague, David Meyer, has a differing viewpoint, suggesting that Microsoft would simply be better served to kill any such Android project. He has a point in that Microsoft’s overall Windows message is confusing enough with three platforms, including Windows RT, which is likely to be merged with Windows Phone. He could well be right for that and other reasons; let’s see what Microsoft decides to do once it officially closes its deal to purchase Nokia’s hardware division in the first quarter of 2014.

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  1. I think you’re missing the point. Windows is FREE, to Nokia/Microsoft.

    1. I have a different take on that, although I understand your point: Windows isn’t free at all. It costs MSFT hundreds of millions, if not more to keep developing and maturing it.

      1. It would also cost Microsoft millions (billions?) to support a 2nd mobile ecosystem. They’d have to set up their own app store, as well as replace every part of the OS that isn’t bolted down; calendar, contacts, email, web browser, and virtually everything else. Then they’d have to convince developers to re-develop their apps for sale in Microsoft’s store, which is not as easy as it sounds. Apps that use any of Google’s APIs, like C2DM (push messaging) for example, would need to be rewritten. (This is part of the reason there’s like 10 times as many apps in the Play Store vs. Amazon Market.)

        THEN, you’d have to convince users to buy in, and it just wouldn’t happen. I use Android because I also use a bunch of Google services; Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts, YouTube… If Microsoft can’t provide those apps, then there’s no reason to choose Microsoft’s Android rather than Google’s Android, is there?

        If Microsoft was going to adopt Android, the time to do that was 3 years ago. It would take them at least 5 years to reach Amazon’s level of maturity, and then they’d still be miles behind Google and Apple. At this point, they need to be all-in on the “One Windows — PC+Phone+Xbox” strategy of unifying their own platforms, rather than just muddying the waters with yet-another failed mobile OS.

    2. Android is FREE too..with lot of Apps and developer support, which MS lacks specially on Mobile platform

  2. In the short run they (MSFT) should absolutely build Android phones – its not going to cannibalize their mobile sales as it is not much anyways and with the right marketing and promotion, their mobile revenues may grow significantly. However, in the long run that may be damaging since mobile OS is the $ generating market as compared to laptop/desktop. And you don’t want to fuel the Android growth at the expense of MSFT/Windows OS.

    The smarter strategy would be to build a dual boot phone and bring the Android enthusiasts and convert them to windows (if they can build a really solid UI experience on mobile).

    my $0.02,

    sachin

  3. It would also cost Microsoft millions (billions?) to support a 2nd mobile ecosystem. They’d have to set up their own app store, as well as replace every part of the OS that isn’t bolted down; calendar, contacts, email, web browser, and virtually everything else. Then they’d have to convince developers to re-develop their apps for sale in Microsoft’s store, which is not as easy as it sounds. Apps that use any of Google’s APIs, like C2DM (push messaging) for example, would need to be rewritten. (This is part of the reason there’s like 10 times as many apps in the Play Store vs. Amazon Market.)

    THEN, you’d have to convince users to buy in, and it just wouldn’t happen. I use Android because I also use a bunch of Google services; Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts, YouTube… If Microsoft can’t provide those apps, then there’s no reason to choose Microsoft’s Android rather than Google’s Android, is there?

    If Microsoft was going to adopt Android, the time to do that was 3 years ago. It would take them at least 5 years to reach Amazon’s level of maturity, and then they’d still be miles behind Google and Apple. At this point, they need to be all-in on the “One Windows — PC+Phone+Xbox” strategy of unifying their own platforms, rather than just muddying the waters with yet-another failed mobile OS.

  4. This is just a rehash of the same rumour before the announcement of the MS/Nokia deal.
    It actually may have been a driver for the current deal.
    Until the deal is done I am sure Nokia is keeping all its options open.
    They will kill that just like they killed Meego but before its a real product.

    Nokias adv services make lots of prototypes and very few see the light of day… same as everyone else.

  5. The Monopoly can’t distribute Android and then attack others for using their patents in Android. It has an Open Source license. Anyone can take use and distribute the code. The Monopoly would grant a license to the world to use anything in Android, including their supposed patents.

  6. yes that’s right .

  7. that’s rubbish that’s like Apple announcing and releasing a mac with windows on it and an iPhone that runs android or windows phone.

  8. most of you wrong, before the buy from Nokia D&S, Nokia already had Plan B, that’s an android phone, they have been working on that silently, that Microsoft don’t know and even before the buy the asha and Lumia android project was revealed after D&S sale and Microsoft at the same time silently working on a Surface phone without telling Nokia for Plan B and after Nokia D&S sale, Microsoft said they will license old S40 Asha phones for couple years until 2015 or 2016 OS support and then they brought the rights for this Asha Model along with the license “Nokia” brand for ten years, to ramp up Windows Phone, a low cost windows phone mobile for emerging markets and Lumia for smartphone as Microsoft phone brands, they said Nokia cant release any phone after 2015, December 31 2015, not 2014, that will clash with Microsoft plans, Microsoft don’t want an stupid android to ramp up there market share, it does not make sense, this is only to boost windows phone as well as dropping windows rt and phone fees to free by late 2014 or 2015 it makes more sense to cancelled this old plan, Nokia Android Normandy project, likely they will before it will release sometime between First half of 2014 or Second half of 2014. So the information is all there in the document

  9. Microsoft and Nokia did not say folk android would be there plan for next year, that’s Nokia alone to decide in the future of there business without D&S, to setup a new emerging market division to make mobile feature phones not smartphones, so it does not relate to Microsoft, Microsoft did not buy the whole of Nokia.

  10. Microsoft did not say they were planning a “fork” android feature phone in the near future to bring Microsoft services, they said they will bring all there services Skype,Bing,Xbox and Office to Nokia Microsoft feature phones, ASHA, basically Microsoft means a low budget feature phone running windows phone, so they mean you might see an Asha running windows phone for the first time, not just on Lumias. So this article is confusing everyone.

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