I have voice my displeasure several times over the way Nokia's Board of Directors handle their affairs – they took the largest manufacturer of mobile phones and turned them into an after thought. They refused to abandon their Symbian Operating System (OS) and then, rather than embracing the Android OS – I mean it is not like they could have jumped on the iOS bandwagon – they chose the Windows Phone OS after they made another mistake by hiring Stephen Elop as their new CEO. Then, to top it all off, that same BODs allowed their CEO Elop to sell them to Microsoft, while at the same time Elop was being hired back to work for Microsoft! Is there still anybody out there naive enough to believe that Microsoft, Ballmer, and Elop did not have this planned out from day one – I didn't think so.
Today at MWC, Nokia announced their new family line of Nokia X smartphones – the Nokia X, X+, and XL – that are pseudo Android phones. They use the Android OS, but with their own heavily skinned Windows Phone-like UI, much like the Amazon Kindle Fire line of tablets. These new Nokia devices can use about 75-percent of the Android Apps, but Nokia has stripped away the Google services – Maps, Play Store, etc. – and substituted their own and Microsoft's. You cannot download Apps from the Google Play Store, only from Nokia's own Android App Store.
All of this is being done to lure the emerging markets into the Windows Phone platform – they are deceiving the customers into thinking they are buying an Android phone, when indeed, they are buying a kind of "Windows Phone" look-a-like. Microsoft is most likely hoping that the user will become comfortable with the Windows phone format and when they finally upgrade, they will purchase a true Windows Phone with all Android removed…another Microsoft "trojan horse" if you will – similar to when they "snuck" Elop into Nokia. The only trouble is this may turn around and be more of a benefit to Google, than to Windows Phone.
The huge draw of Nokia and Android is that Nokia is synonymous with quality and Android with its ecosystem of over 1 million apps. However, on this heavily skinned Android OS not all the apps will work and Nokia/Microsoft are banking on developers making the necessary adjustments to the apps because of the scale of sales they are expecting in these emerging markets. But what happens if this new fragmentation does not appeal to the developers and the Nokia X phone buyers begin to become dissatisfied? Will they turn away from, what looks like a Windows Phone UI and jump to the real Android deal?
Nokia is assuming that this "bottom feeder" phone will spark interest in a Windows Phone as the customers begin to climb up the "technical ladder." What happens if they look to "upgrade" to a real Windows Phone, but find out that the Android Apps they loved are no longer available in the Windows Phone ecosystem? The customer could feel as though moving to a Windows Phone would be a downgrade, not the upgrade that Nokia or Microsoft expected – sending the buyer directly to a real Android device.
It will be very interesting to see how this plays out, or even if Microsoft will keep the "X" line of devices once their purchase of Nokia is complete in the upcoming months…or it may just be another miscalculation by Nokia's BODs. Please let us know what you think on our Google+ Page as we would love to hear your opinion.