Of all that wild and weird saga around Nokia's past three years from that moronic Burning Platforms memo (so poisonous, Nokia's Chairman Jorma Ollila reprimanded then-new CEO Stephen Elop in front of the Nokia Board - the memo is the costliest management memo of all time) to the even more incredible revellation that Elop was paid 25 million dollar bounty for destroying the handset business so badly that it was sold to Microsoft (and that the new Nokia Chairman wasn't even aware of this new bonus clause motivating his CEO who was destroying the profit engine of the corporation). Now we have the ultimate madness in the weird love-hate relationship that was Microsoft and Nokia.
Normandy, ie project Mview ie Nokia X is the secret internal project to rush-develop an Android based smartphone for Nokia as it became obvious last year that Windows Phone was doomed. The Android project was very effectively used by Nokia in the negotiations with Microsoft to force MS to make a better offer for Nokia's handset business (the original offer was worse than the one we finally heard about). Microsoft could not have its primary smartphone partner Nokia to suddenly seem to lose faith in Windows Phone and start a shift to Android. We know for a fact that Microsoft hated the idea of an Android-based Nokia smartphone already last summer. It would hate one even more now as Windows Phone market share is sinking and Android is nearing 80% of the market.
All the logic seems to suggest the Android based Nokia 'Normandy' is a ridiculous rumor and will never be sold. As Microsoft is now finalizing the Nokia purchase, it would hever allow this. So why on earth are so reputable news sources as the Wall Street Journal reporting that Normandy will be launched at MWC in Barcelona on 24 February, mere weeks before the Nokia handset business is handed over to Microsoft. What is going on?
I don't want to waste our time on this blog running after every silly rumor. But did you notice - neither Nokia nor Microsoft have been willing to state categorically that it is not true? Every day that the media plays with this story that Nokia will introduce an Android smartphone in the next 11 days or so, will only serve to depress Windows Phone based Lumia sales - and stall any software developers from pursuing any new Windows Phone app development (as Windows Phone had 3.6% market share of all smartphones sold in Q4 and Android had 79% - the obvious place to develop apps for Nokia phones will be Android the moment that phone is announced and end all WIndows Phone app silliness)
So lets discuss this matter and see what factors in it.
WE ALL WANT IT
First the obivous. The Windows Phone experiment is a colossal fiasco for Nokia. They managed to convert only 1 out of 10 customers they used to have on the 'obsolete' Symbian to come to the 'new and magnificent' Windows Phone. Yes, 9 out of 10 loyal Nokia smartphone customers ran away to any other platform, rather than Windows Phone. Most of those went to Android.
If we can't have the best-ever seen mobile OS (at least this side of an iPhone) ie Nokia's Linux based MeeGo on new Nokia smartphones, then the next-best thing would be Android. We all would love to see Nokia's hardware excellence deployed on the latest Android and having the access to the vast library of the best apps in the Android app store rather than the pale selection of mostly lame watered-down versions of those apps on Windows Phone. So please don't bother to comment that 'yes we all would love the Android smartphone from Nokia'. That comment does not add to the discussion. This discussion is about what is best for Microsoft and/or Nokia, not whats best for us consumers. Because Microsoft has bought Nokia's handset and an Android smartphone would be poison.
ANDROID POISON TO MICROSOFT
Lets put aside the fact that Microsoft hated Google already. Lets put aside the fact that year 2012 Android sold more new devices (as smartphones, tablets and laptops) than all Windows based devices (PCs, tablets and smartphones) combined - in new sales. Or that in 2013 Android installed based passed Windows in the even more meaningful statistic - devices in use. Yes today Android powers more computing devices than Windows and Microsoft no longer rules the software world.
From April 1, 2014, when Microsoft takes ownership of the handset division from Nokia, the worst bit of news for Microsoft's mobile ambitions would be if there is a brand new Android based Nokia-branded smartphone stealing all the news. This would be a MASSIVE CATASTROPHY for Microsoft. Why? Because any developer who heard of Nokia launching an Android smartphone - would immediately draw the conclusion that Microsoft will teminate Windows Phone sooner or later and go fully Android. That is what happened many times in the industry already after various giant handset makers found that Windows based smartphones are perennial losers in the market - so they went exclusively to Android like LG and SonyEricsson (now Sony). If not abandon Windows the other option is to diminsh Windows to a token device of almost no relevance which is how Samsung and HTC have played Windows recently shifting almost all of their smartphone production to Android. If Nokia now 'started' the ball rolling towards Android - any sensible developer concludes that this is the end for Windows Phone.
Then it doesn't matter at all whether there are cool new Lumia smartphones ALSO launched to run on Windows Phone. Windows Phone is the dying platform at 3.6% and Android the growing dominant platform at 79%. Every single other Windows partner has shifted to do most or all of their smartphones on Android. If Nokia now started onto that path, it is 'obvious' that Windows Phone is now in terminal death journey. No matter what Microsoft would say or do, that is what any sensible developer would conclude, especially after all the ridiculous nonsense of the past 3 years.
Whether it is fully native Android or a 'forked' version of Android is irrelevant. Whether it is top end phones or bottom end phones, is irrelevant. Whether it supports Android apps or Nokia apps is irrelevant. If Nokia after 2 years of pursuing pure Windows Phone would suddenly add Android to the portfolio, it can only be seen in one way - Windows Phone is dead and Android is the desperation move to try to salvage something.
MICROSOFT CANNOT ALLOW IT
So up to March 31, 2014, technically Nokia is in control of its handset unit and can do what it wants with it. But from April 1, 2014, Microsoft takes over. If Microsoft were to discover a brand new Android project, it would kill it on the spot on April 1, and with big public fanfare. Microsoft's own Windows based operating system would be the only one that Microsoft's own new handset division would use in its smartphones.
There is no doubt that Nokia knows this. So what on earth could be the logic of announcing an Android phone at the end of February? Could Nokia actually have time for a few weeks in March to actually start to sell it too? As Microsoft would kill the Normandy immediately on April 1, why would Nokia want to so deliberately and blatantly want to damage Microsoft's new handset business?
Note how vulnerable Microsoft is. Its own Surface tablets are struggling while Android tablets are now more than half of the total tablet market. Nokia has just released its first tablet (and a phablet) for Christmas. If the developers see that Android is coming and Windows Phone is going out, they would also be very well motivated to stop Windows tablet app development - and shift all that focus also to - Android.
Meanwhile the PC market is in severe decline and also there Google's Chrome OS is emerging as a new rival. Microsoft has a long history of unreliable developer paths and of sudden deaths in the evolution, especially in mobile (WIndows Mobile had no growth path to Windows Phone; Windows Phone 7.x the version Nokia first deployed did not allow upgrades to Windows Phone 8, etc). Any uncertainty now would only be counted against Microsoft because of its recent past.
Would Microsoft's new CEO and the big hardware production acquistion by Microsoft be celebrated by great news about Windows Phone based Lumia smartphones - or would that be totally overshadowed about the brand new Android smartphone(s) and what happens next with those...
We know that Windows Phone is not suited for very low-cost smartphones - where the market growth is (sadly, Nokia's own Symbian was suited for that low end of the market, and even more sadly, Nokia had a new Linux based development of a low-cost smartphone operating system called Meltemi that was also destroyed by Elop).
If Microsoft keeps the S40 'featurephone' operating system of Nokia in production powering Asha and low-cost phones, that is safely not seen as a rival smartphone move by Microsoft. The Asha and basic S40 handset business can be gradually diminished and ended. But it would not be seen as a threat to Windows Phone. However, if Microsoft were to now switch from Asha/S40 to Android - that is a clear signal that Android will eventually power most of the 'Nokia' smartphones owned by Microsoft. How weird would that be? It would be a clear signal that Windows Phone is deemed dead by Microsoft management. We have seen that movie before - when Sony finally launched VHS based video cassette recorders. At that point the whole Betamax VCR business died.
First and BY FAR the most likely scenario. There will be no Android based Nokia smartphone. This is the logical outcome. Its just a silly rumor.
But we've seen many major mobile phone makers make many massive mistakes in the past. Just now a few weeks ago we heard that HP is having regrets about abandoning the smartphone races and will return (and of cousre now will launch new HP smartphones on .. Android)
So what of Nokia? Is it possible that for some bizarre reason, Nokia could announce the Normandy and rush it to market to sell it a few weeks before Nokia transfers the handset business to Microsoft? Could Nokia be doing this deliberately to 'damage' Microsoft? Now, I kinda like that haha, personally, as I see Microsoft as the biggest bully in the tech industry who just crushes rivals, and would love them to be given a bloody nose, but this would be a bewildering development by Nokia. Would it be revenge for something or could it be that somehow Nokia hopes Microsoft would be so enraged they would maybe pull out of the deal (there are probably different clauses of who has to pay what to whom if its Nokia who cancels the deal or of its Microsoft who cancels the deal). Yes yes yes I'd love to see that but it seems like an incredibly far-fetched Hollywood script.
And lastly. Could this be sanctioned - or maybe even planned by Elop? Oh, would I love that to be true. That he somehow managed to bless this idea and not think it through and Nokia gleefully would now just be fulfilling the plan as designed by Elop? Mr Burning Platforms who returning to Micrsoft would effectively set his Windows Phone platform on fire haha...
We will know on 24 Feb. I really can't see this happening but I will be monitoring it with amazement if it does come true. And then we have to see will Microsoft make nasty noises and terminate the Normandy immediately on April 1? PS if Normandy comes then do rush to you store and buy the 'very last real Nokia as not damaged by Microsoft software haha'