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Perspective: The fate of Nokia's Android phone depends on Microsoft

Matt Hamblen | Dec. 13, 2013
Latest analyst thinking on 'Normandy': It runs a cross of Meego-Linux-Android and can use Android apps.

Analysts are pondering just what Microsoft might do with the Android-variant smartphone Nokia has under development.

With Microsoft finalizing its $7.4 billion purchase of Nokia's devices and services business even as it aggressively peddles its own Windows Phone OS, some analysts and mobile experts figure Microsoft will never let the 'Normandy' phone see the light of day.

Others argue that Microsoft needs an inexpensive phone that would slot in between the higher-cost Lumia line and the low-end Asha line.

Unnamed sources have told All Things D and The Verge that the Normandy device is indeed under development at Nokia, with a possible release in 2014. A photo purporting to be the phone appeared on Twitter in November, leaked by @evleaks. But very little about the photo suggests it is anything other than a Nokia Lumia, since it features the classic Lumia rectangle design with sharp corners. Nokia refused to comment and Microsoft didn't respond to a request to comment on Normandy.

Normandy phone
According to evleaks, this is the purported Normandy phone Nokia's working on. (Image: evleaks)

One of the more interesting theories about Normandy comes from Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi. She thinks Normandy is probably not an Android phone, per se, but more of a cross between Meego, Linux and Android that can run Android apps. The Asha OS has similarities to three OSes used at various times by Nokia: MeeGo, Symbian and Maemo.

"Everything soon with Nokia will be done to Microsoft's benefit, either from an ecosystem perspective with Windows or an apps perspective," Milanesi said. "So it could be conceivable that if Windows Phone cannot get to the lower price points that are necessary in emerging markets, Microsoft could use a Linux-based OS [like Meego] but still under the Asha brand and run Android apps on it.Ultimately, though, whatever Nokia might have been working on will need to pass the thumbs-up test from Microsoft now."

Milanesi's theory rings true because there are about 1 million apps in Google Play but fewer than 200,000 apps in the Windows Phone Store. Also, it makes sense for Microsoft/Nokia to hold onto the more familiar Asha OS brand rather than move to Android.

Various reports citing unnamed sources have said that Normandy will be an Android variant in the vein of the Amazon Kindle Fire. Like Amazon, many smartphone and tablet makers customize Android with different user interfaces and unique services. Google created its Nexus line of smartphones four years ago, followed by Nexus tablets, in reaction to those customizations and to show what a more pure Android experience would be like.


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