The Real Reason Microsoft Bought Nokia: To Thwart an Android Lumia Release

Though publicly Nokia remained committed to Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform for its smartphone efforts, privately Nokia may have been working on an Android Lumia, and this threat may have been just enough for Microsoft that it had acquired Nokia’s devices and services division. Last month, a leaked device–without capacitive touch navigation keys to the bottom of the display or a dedicated camera shutter button–was leaked by @evleaks on Twitter, and at the time it was believed that this phone, with its missing elements, would be a high-end feature phone branded under the Asha branding rather than the Lumia umbrella of Windows Phone. Now, if the latest speculations are to be believed, it appears that said phone may have represented Nokia’s ambitions to diversify its phone portfolio with an Android-powered model.

The device, codenamed Normandy, would have stormed Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington beaches, though it would be unclear if Android would have saved Nokia’s declining market share in the phone and smartphone space.

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According to intelligence obtained by The Verge‘s Tom Warren, it appears that Normandy would have operated on a forked version of Android that would ship devoid of Google’s own apps and services. This is a similar strategy to what rival Amazon is employing on its Kindle Fire series of tablets, replacing Google’s native apps for its own versions and linking to its own App Store to provide content.

As Nokia doesn’t operate as rich an ecosystem of content, it’s unclear how such a strategy would play out for the Finnish phone-maker, but if the device is competing against high-end feature phones, such as those on the Asha line, it may not make that big of a difference. Under the Asha strategy, Nokia has worked in the past with great success with some of its partners to bring feature-rich apps to the platform, and Nokia could have done the same thing to fill the gap with a low-end Android offering.

Given the Microsoft acquisition, it’s unclear if Nokia will release the Normandy, though this still may be the case if the Microsoft deal doesn’t close before the device’s anticipated release in 2014.

“Nokia employees working on Normandy were informed the device is planned as a 2014 release, and one insider described the Normandy effort as full steam ahead,” Warren reported.

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In the past, another prototype Android device was leaked and said to have been made by Nokia. At the time, Nokia was exploring options as it was moving away from Symbian, a move that resulted in a partnership with Microsoft with Windows Phone in the end. Even after Windows Phone, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop and Microsoft alum had openly stated that he was willing to give Android a shot on tablets, a move that didn’t happen in the end given Nokia opted for Windows RT with the Lumia 2520 tablet release.

Given that Nokia accounts for most of Windows Phone’s market share, the company’s importance is very significant to Microsoft, and this latest leak suggests why it was critical for Microsoft to acquire its partner.

  

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