Nokia unveiled a few new Android-powered Nokia X smartphones at MWC this year, and they look like an interesting combination of Nokia’s existing design choices with Windows Phone, Microsoft’s services and Google’s mobile OS. As interesting as they appear, however, and regardless of their ultimate merits, don’t expect them to usher in a new continuing lineup of Nokia Android hardware.
I argued in a previous Droidcast on TechCrunch that the Nokia/Android mashup was essentially a non-starter; the alliance appears to have been in the pipeline already when Microsoft began the process of taking over Nokia’s hardware division, but there are clear indications that Nokia’s new owners won’t be as open to the idea of seeing the experiment through.
In a blog post, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Communications Frank X. Shaw provided a short summary of Microsoft and Nokia’s role and announcements at MWC this year. The letter is noteworthy in that it’s more reserved than what we normally see from Shaw, and in that it only mentions ‘Android’ once – and then only when Shaw is referencing competitor devices that the Nokia X competes with, and not the X line itself. Perhaps most telling is this excerpt, which Shaw offers as a means of contextualizing the Nokia X project:
First, our transaction with Nokia has not yet closed. Today, we operate as two independent companies as required by antitrust law, and we will until the acquisition is complete. The anticipated close timeframe for the acquisition remains end of the first quarter of 2014.
In other words, what Nokia is currently doing ≠ what Microsoft will be doing with Nokia’s hardware division once the deal goes through, which is expected to happen towards the end of March this year.
Shaw goes on to emphasize the importance of getting Microsoft services out there in the hands of consumers, which the Nokia X project helps to accomplish, but he sums up with a reminder that Windows Phone is Microsoft’s main bet in the smartphone realm, and nothing happening at MWC will change that.
Of course, Microsoft could stick with Android if these Nokia X devices prove to be very popular with the emerging market crowd they appear to target, and that results in a huge spike in usage of MS services. But the chances of that seem extremely low, and reading between the lines I’d say it’s almost certain Nokia’s Android experiment will be a short-lived one, regardless of outcome.