Does the Nokia X make any sense to you?

By Kip Kniskern | Posted February 25, 2014 7 comments

Nokia-X-Dual-SIM1This week, Nokia officially announced the “X” series of entry level smartphones powered by an open source version of Android.  The three phones: the Nokia X, the X+, and coming later this year, the Nokia XL, not only introduce “popular Microsoft services” to Android, but apparently also introduce a whole lot of head scratching as the tech world tries to figure out what the heck all of this is supposed to mean.

Actually, from the Nokia side of things, the move is fairly straightforward.  Nokia has been running the Asha line of quasi-smartphones on its own proprietary S40 operating system, which is rapidly becoming outdated and in need of an overhaul.  But S40 isn’t capable of powering a full on “smartphone”, and there’s a gap between high end Asha phones  and the low end Windows Phones like the 520.  Nokia wants to hit that price point, especially  in emerging markets, but doesn’t want to develop a whole new operating system to do it.

Enter Android, and an Android Open Source Project OS that not only brings a turnkey modern operating system running on low end hardware to the table, but millions of apps along with it.  With the X services, Nokia can build out its (and Microsoft’s) services on Android, and is better able to compete with other emerging market low end smartphones.  At the same time, and perhaps only partially coincidentally, it throws a scare into Microsoft, and gets the ball rolling on the sale of the phones businesses.

For Microsoft, however, the waters are definitely much murkier.  Already saddled with an Asha line of phones it doesn’t have software to support, it’s now taking on a ticking time bomb that brings Android into Microsoft.  Although the Nokia X phones will support Microsoft services, they won’t run Windows Phone apps, meaning that any apps purchased for the X series won’t run when (or more likely, if ever) Nokia X series users move up to a new phone.

Yes, the Nokia X series phones do promote Microsoft services, or as Stephen Elop repeatedly referred to them in his keynote at MWC, “popular Microsoft services”.  That may hold some sway in India, where Microsoft has a good following, but it certainly won’t make much difference in China, where local services like Tencent and Baidu are preferred over not only Microsoft services, but Google or any other non-Chinese services as well.

Apart from all the murkiness, the Nokia X phones as announced simply aren’t very good phones.  They’re underpowered, and running a fork of an Android OS that uses far more resources than current versions do, meaning that the Nokia X will suffer poor battery life comparisons to other competitive Android phones.

Microsoft is getting very close to closing the deal with Nokia to acquire their phones businesses, and to install Stephen Elop as head of Microsoft’s Devices and Services Division.  At almost the same time, the Nokia X will launch in emerging markets, and our guess is that the market, and not any directives from either Microsoft or Nokia, will decide the fate of the Nokia X.

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p>What do you think?  Does the Nokia X make sense to you?  Will it last?

Posted February 25th, 2014 at 11:11 am
Category: Mobile
Tags: Android, Nokia, Nokia X
  • chinch987

    it just seems disjointed like a trial balloon. The only way it really makes sense is to take literally the project name “project Normandy” in that the effort will be combative, messy with many unknowns that are unpredictable… just attack and see what happens (in the marketplace).

    seems like follow-up effort will depend 100% on marketplace which is OK.

    For MS just having a duplicate “nokia x app store” alone is a resource killer that will be short lived unless these phones sell like hot-cakes. But once MS owns Nokia that will just be part of “cost cutting” i.e. jobs cut.

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      To be honest, we don’t even know if the “Nokia X App Store” (or even Nokia Music) are part of the acquisition deal. Are they part of the phones business, or are they, like HERE location services, a service that Nokia will continue to run?

    • GameCube

      I don’t think it’s a resource killer, it’s actually really smart. Nokia can curate the best apps and mostly apps that are already on Windows Phone so when you upgrade, you have the same apps.

      • chinch987

        From what Nokia has stated on record (again 30k workers will no longer be under “nokia” next month) “they” are trying to do what Amazon for Kindle but for worldwide & emerging markets particularly.”They” already said they would be to be vetting/testing each android app – of which 75% are said to run directly. Obviously these must be free or require developer contracts/payouts, etc. The (notable) apps that require re-writes (“8-hours of recoding”) would probably be done by Nokia (who will soon fold into Microsoft & probably many of these workers be laid off or put on Windows projects).

        The benefit of Nokia’s carrier relationship (no credit card to buy apps) is peculiar unless there are actual paid apps and developer portals, etc. Either way I believe this would take a large amount of resources – look how long it took Windows store to go worldwide but lets ignore the logistics for now.

        I don’t see it ever happening unless these things sell/spread like wildfire (unlikely given cost which still seems high).

        The next benefit is mostly wishful thinking – if it was not so disjointed & messy – it would be having these X-apps curated where Nokia could push the apps into the Windows ecosystem eventually. For example maybe Windows9 (and phone) can run these X-apps windowed like they will do metro and win32 apps and stripped of all Google services. Great idea but not so easy. I don’t see that as having been the plan, only trying to explain rotten lemons becoming sweet, tasty lemonade.

        Project Normandy seems to be a messy affair drafted before (or to leverage) selling Nokia to Microsoft.

  • Joscelin Trouwborst

    Nice suggestion that X might serve to fase out Asha. How about a Lumia 4xx with a new optimized WP version to fase out both of them.

  • DKJr

    This strategy doesn’t really make sense to me especially since WP is picking up within emerging markets with L520. They shd stay focused. In anycase MS has removed H/W restrictions for OEMs so cheap phones r possible by using same h/w as Android…less r&d costs etc.

  • Milton

    To be honest, I found that move a bit confusing