One of the big technology news to day is Nokia releasing a line of Android-based mobile phones.
As the BBC’s coverage noted, Microsoft is in the process of buying Nokia and Nokia, under old (Elop’s) management, had publicly bet the company on Windows Operating Systems and Windows Operating System only. As such, I believe a lot of people will be surprised. BBC noted that this Android-based mobile phone line was expected. I suppose it meant people familiar with the mobile phone market. I am not familiar with the market and was not expecting it, but is not surprised either.
From a technology viewpoint, despite what its own management said, I always know it will be surprising if no one in Nokia’s R&D department continue experimenting with Android continuously. If it did not, then I will call that department incompetent. It is their duty to work out what the competition is doing and to learn from them. If they were directed by top management to not do it, then that decision is suicidal because Nokia is not in such a dire state that it has to conserve cash by sacrificing R&D.
Putting on my technical hat, if I were Nokia R&D, to study Android I will build an Android phone. I have the expertise to build phones so the best way to study one is to build one. Again, because I have the expertise, I will experiment with customizing and modifying the Android software. Even if I do not ever plan to use Android, experimenting with Android is essential work. Where in the world where your competition will give you the full blueprint to its software except in Android? Moreover, one can learn a lot from it and use that knowledge to enhance one’s product.
The surprise therefore is that they decided to bring to production this R&D effort. I had said I will build an Android phone in R&D, and even customize it. However, let’s not forget that for R&D, this is a technical experiment to study the an Android phones. all phones constructed this way are not ready for production. A few are not going to be able to make it into production either.
Thus, to bring a phone to production is still a big effort. From a hardware perspective, for a box-standard Android phone the fastest way is to put it on an existing phone design. It will still be at least 2 months from the day management give the go ahead. This is Nokia first Android phone and they decided to customize it. The customization will take at least an extra 3 months to design and perfect. I will hazard a guess to say that the decision to make an Android phone was made a year ago at least.
The big question is is Nokia abandoning the Windows Only approach? I am not sure. First, after buying it, Microsoft is going to use it to showcase Windows on mobile phones. Will Android survive as a side show? I must confess I cannot see Microsoft using Android, even for low end system.
I think the decision to produce Android phones was made before Nokia sold the mobile phone business to Microsoft. In fact this might had been used to encourage Microsoft to buy it. Microsoft share of the mobile phone market is small. It has the cash to splash out, at least to preserve that market share.
I think this line of Android phone is a last hurrah for Nokia. It is used to showcase its R&D expertise on Android and to ensure effort made on bring an Android mobile phone line not wasted. This is likely to be the only line of Android phones from Nokia.
This line of Android phones actually might give me a dilemma if I decided to replace my phone this year. I like Nokia mobile phone for its technical performance, i.e., it is one of the best when it comes to mobile signal reception. I have no confidence on Windows Operating System, and since I do not really want another iOS device, I will go for an Android. I would had preferred a dual SIM card phone but Nokia’s signal reception performance can make me sacrifice that. However, I do not really want a phone that is a bastard child of its maker. It does not have the attention the other siblings get from the parent and this is a problem for me. I want my phone to have the same attention as the other siblings!