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