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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.

Milanesi's suggestion that Normandy could survive after the Microsoft acquisition, albeit in a somewhat disguised state, stands in direct contrast to other reasoned viewpoints.

"I don't think Microsoft will let [Normandy] see the light of day for fear of jeopardizing what little support they have for Windows Phone," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Windows Phone recently topped about 10% of market share in the five largest European markets, far behind Android and iOS. But it still has only about 3.5% of the important China smartphone market and remains just shy of 5% in the U.S. market, according to third-quarter figures from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

Even though Moorhead said Microsoft won't allow Normandy to move forward, he said it could prove valuable for Nokia in selling phones at lower prices in emerging countries. "Android phones cost less and have a lot more apps with many more ways to get to those compatible apps," he said. "But strategically, [development of Normandy] could send a negative message to Windows Phone developers that Microsoft isn't committed to the WP OS."

Another analyst, Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates, agreed with Milanesi that it's possible to customize Android to be Asha-like, allowing users to benefit from access to Android apps. "Having an Asha layer on top of a smartphone OS like Android could accomplish a way for Nokia/Microsoft to make a 'compatibility mode' for older Asha apps, which makes some sense for upgrading users," Gold said.

"If Microsoft wants to play in the overall phone market, it needs a low-end play to compete, and Windows Phone can't compete in the low end, especially in emerging market where the Chinese makers like ZTE and Huawei are becoming dominant and almost always run on Android," Gold said. "Microsoft will have to adopt a low-end smartphone strategy to be successful in the phone business, and Windows Phone can't scale down enough to provide the many resources required, such as CPU, memory and more."

Gold said an Android approach might be tough for Microsoft to stomach, but it's still necessary. "Microsoft might have to hold its nose and allow a modified Android to run on a Nokia phone," he said. "They might even try to make the user interface look more like Windows Phone and can leverage the large number of Android apps to make the phone relevant in the market."

 

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