Nokia (NYSE: NOK) has been pushing hard to keep its name in the headlines with regular public appearances from its CEO Stephen Elop, lots of new product announcements and just maybe even a planned leak or two. But what does the other news that has come out — not confirmed by Nokia — say about the company?
Today we got not one but two more Nokia leaks: the first showed snapshots of a Nokia device running Android software, and the other was a report with alleged details about Nokia outsourcing the making of devices running Windows Phones 7 from Microsoft.
The Android device appeared today in photos posted by Engadget, which were picked up from a person who also posted some of the first leaked pictures of Nokia’s Windows Phone prototypes in May.
Meanwhile, Digitimes is reporting that the Taiwanese white-label manufacturer Compal has signed a deal with Nokia to manufacture Windows Phone smartphones for the company. The news appeared in an article about Compal’s new deal with Microsoft as a licensee for Windows Phone.
What do these two leaks, taken together, mean exactly? It could be nothing more than the movements of a company in transition:
The images of the Android device, which are grainy and show views of the Android homescreen on a device that looks similar to the N9 launched earlier this week, could have been doctored, of course. But if they are accurate, they would simply support what Elop himself has said several times: Nokia had contemplated using the Android OS for its next generation of devices but has decided against it, for now.
Ditto with the Compal deal, if it is true. Given that Nokia is still manufacturing its own Symbian smartphones and S40 feature phones in its own manufacturing plants — it has plants in nine countries currently — it makes sense for those to continue where they are and to move its new Windows Phone devices, the first product of its OS partnership with Microsoft first announced in Febaruary, elsewhere. And if Nokia is looking at new approaches for reducing its cost base, this could be a moment to test an outsourced production model out, too.
Moreover, it appears to be not the first time that the two companies have worked together: in 2009 it was reported (though again, not confirmed) that Compal was manufacturing a netbook for Nokia, the Booklet 3G.
But there is another view, from the blogger Eldar Murtazin, who has made many allegations about Nokia with claims of inside knowledge, although some of them have been denied by Nokia directly: on Android, he writes that Android is still Nokia’s plan B for “when” WP7 fails. On the Compal deal, he believes that it goes back to another allegation of his about Microsoft buying Nokia: Nokia has “secured” production of its WP7 devices as part of its attempt to sell the company to Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT). If that deal actually went ahead, outsourcing production would put the device and that relationship outside of regulatory scrutiny.
We have contacted Nokia to comment on both the Android and Compal reports, and will update this post as we learn more.
Compal, which makes devices ranging from phones to computers on behalf of different branded consumer electronics companies, today also downgraded its 2011 mobile production forecasts to 4.5 million units from 6 million units. Compal makes a large amount of feature phones but is currently transitioning to making more smartphones.