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Nokia Launches The ‘X’ at MWC – Are They a Game Changer?

February 24, 2014 - Written By Cory McNutt

Today at the MWC in Barcelona, Nokia finally unveiled its new Nokia family of smartphones that run a somewhat twisted sort of Android under a Windows Phone-like user interface (UI).  The code name was Normandy, which can only lead us to believe that they expected to “storm the beaches” and capture the victory that has long eluded them.  The final names of the three smartphones in this Nokia family are the Nokia X, Nokia X+, and Nokia XL – kind of like ‘Baby Bear,’ ‘Momma Bear,’ and ‘Pappa Bear.’ The big question remains will anybody really care who was sleeping in whose bed?

The new line of phones focus on one real market segment and that is the emerging nations – the specifications and the price define that segment. While the actions of Nokia’s Board of Directors over the past few years can be questioned, the one defining adjective we know about Nokia is that they build quality products – even cheap quality products. The Nokia X line of phones allows them to produce a low-priced device that can run a “forked-version” of Android and yet look somewhat like a Windows Phone UI. The pricing will give the device marketability, the relationship to Android will make it more desirable or acceptable, and the Windows Phone UI will help Microsoft get many new customers familiar with the “look and feel” of the Windows Phone UI and may even prompt those users to upgrade to a Windows Phone next time around.

Some analysts are optimistic about the Nokia X line and what it will mean to Microsoft. Tony Cripps, principal analyst, at Ovum stated:

“Both developers and consumers will see significant benefit from the emergence of Nokia X, which offers a viable alternative to the Google-centric view of low-cost smartphones that is prevalent today.  This may well stimulate a response from Google, especially in developing markets where its focus on ecosystem monetization has been limited. Microsoft’s pragmatism in adopting AOSP gives it a chance of finally taking the global consumer technology fight to Google, Apple, and Samsung.  The result, in the long-term, may be a company barely recognizable as the one we know today.”

The key points to keep in mind are that while the Nokia X “family” runs Android, it will not actually have access to the Google Play Store, but will have its own Android Store. Secondly, not all of the current Android Apps will run on these devices – Nokia is estimating about 75-percent and is hoping that Developers are willing to provide the necessary tweaks to make them any Android App work. Lastly, it looks like the Nokia X smartphones will not be available in North America, Japan, Korea, or Western European countries.

So it looks like only a Microsoft optimist would call the Nokia X devices “game changers,” however, it is too early to tell whether this calculated move will work or not. It will certainly be interesting to sit back and watch how this play develops.