Something very interesting is going on at Nokia: The company apparently believes that the look, feel, and underlying services of the Microsoft Windows Phone operating system may be more important than, well, the OS itself.
According to reports, Nokia is finalizing development on "Normandy," the code name for a low-end Android phone. Reports published this week say that the phone will be marketed as the Nokia X, but built upon much the same hardware platform as the Lumia 520, Nokia's cheapest Lumia smartphone. Not surprisingly, representatives for Nokia declined to comment.
But screenshots from Twitter leaker @evleaks reveal a surprise: an Android UI that's much closer to Windows Phone in form and function, rather than the typical Android layout of carefully organized icons. Instead, if the screenshots are accurate, the Nokia X will feature icons that nudge up against each other, Windows-Phone style. The leak shows a mix of apps: Nokia's own HERE maps, Microsoft's Skype, plus games like Jetpack Joyride and Plants vs. Zombies.
The operating system is Android. But the user interface is "Windows Phone." The data is owned by... well, that's a bit unclear at the moment. But the Nokia X's design philosophy appears to be a provocative one: What's running on top of the operating system is more important than the operating system itself.
Reportedly, Normandy is based on a fork of the free, open-source Android OS, offering Nokia an entree into the Android ecosystem without the constraints that Google might place on the company. @evleaks suggests that the Nokia X/Normandy will be an entry-level phone:
Amazon tried this strategy, too: Its Kindle tablets use their own version of Android, offering moderate performance at competitive prices. Amazon then rakes in the rest of its profits over time, capitalizing on transactions from its online store.
The Nokia X might not follow directly in Amazon's footprints, but the company apparently sees value in capturing a user's data inside the Windows ecosystem and monetizing it later. Once a customer has committed his or her data to the platform, they may naturally upgrade to a "full" Windows Phone experience.
According to Charles Golvin, formerly with Forrester Research and now an independent analyst, when consumers purchase a modern smartphone, they essentially invest in it in four ways. First, there's the hardware and the price paid for it. Second, consumers invest their data, everything from the address book to documents stored in the cloud. Third, consumers invest their time, learning the most productive ways to navigate the user interface and their data stored within it. And finally there's the social element, connecting users within the same ecosystem to one another.
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