Nokia May Have a Trojan Horse for Microsoft

Nokia fans were upset when Microsoft alum Stephen Elop was hired as CEO to lead the company, resulting in a radical departure from the Symbian and MeeGo (formerly Maemo) platforms and a marriage to Microsoft’s nascent Windows Phone operating system. Avid Finns and Nokians called Elop a Trojan horse sent from Microsoft to convert the phone-maker, once the world’s largest, into Microsoft’s pawn. However, if recent leaks about the Android-powered Nokia-made Normandy smartphone are to be believed, it looks like Nokia may be the Trojan horse once Microsoft acquires the company.

A recently posted screenshot of the home screen of the Nokia Normandy by famed Twitter leaker @evleaks suggest that the Android device will actually bear a custom designed UI that closely resembles the Windows Phone Metro interface. With flat boxes and what could appear to be tiles that act like widgets, the Normandy’s Android UI may at a cursory glance be confused for the Live Tiles that appear on Nokia’s other Windows Phone handsets, including the flagships Nokia Lumia 1020 and 1520.

NokiaNormandy

Considering that Microsoft is still in the process of acquiring Nokia–pending regulatory approval from China–if this device launches before the acquisition closes, Nokia may have passed on an interesting problem for Microsoft. Given the embittered war between Microsoft and Google, with the latter refusing to develop apps for the former’s mobile OS, this may be a huge public embarrassment for Microsoft. When the deal closes, Microsoft would bring Nokia’s devices and services division in-house, and this means that if the Normandy launches before the acquisition is done Microsoft will be stuck with supporting the device and providing warranty services for the phone.

Still, the Nokia Normandy is said to be running a forked version of Android, so likely Google’s main services won’t be present on the device. This is a strategy that Amazon had adopted with the Kindle Fire series of Android tablets, and in both cases it looks like little traces of Android are present. For Nokia, it’s unclear how Normandy will rectify the situation with apps, which has been a stumbling block for adoption of Windows Phone in the past.

As the Normandy runs a forked version of Android, it likely won’t have access to Google’s Play Store for apps, music, movies, TV shows, magazines, and e-book downloads. Nokia would either have to build its own store and court developers to sell in that digital marketplace, or rely on another provider, like Amazon’s App Store for Android, to provide content.

If @evleaks is accurate, we’ll have to see how Microsoft handles this delicate situation of being caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, Microsoft cannot publicly support a competing platform, but it may have no other choice.

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