Talking tech since 2003

A post on BGR today points the way back to a listing from a Vietnamese online phone retailer, which pegs Nokia’s Android-powered phone, the Nokia X, as costing about $104. If true, the Nokia X could wind up being one of the most simultaneously inexpensive and sought-after smartphones to hit the market in some time.

Tech watchers have been paying more attention to the Nokia X, codenamed “Normandy,” than probably just about any other handset, with the possible exception of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 6. That’s a pretty big deal for what is, for all intents and purposes, an underpowered phone that may never even make it to the United States. The listing offers up many of the same specifications for the Nokia X that have been rumored for the last few months: a dual-core Snapdragon 1GHz processor, 4 GB or internal storage, and 512 MB of RAM. Based on those specs alone, the phone would be something of a dinosaur compared with even some of the lower end devices that are available in the United States. Moreover, Nokia has yet to even officially confirm the Nokia X’s existence.

But rumors and leaks about the phone continue to surface online, like the one that hit on Monday that the Nokia X would be introduced at the Mobile World Congress tradeshow later this month. If that happens, it’s possible that the Nokia X could provide a blueprint for how Microsoft—the soon-to-be corporate parent of Nokia mobile—deals with Android going forward.

At the moment, the greatest threat to Microsoft’s business longevity seems to be the one created by Google and its Android and Chrome operating systems. Windows Phone occupies a sliver of mobile OS market share compared to the dominance displayed by Android. And Chromebook purchases are going up as PC purchases are going down. Windows still rules the day in terms of desktop OS market share, but this week’s deal between Google and VMWare has given Chrome OS another tool to make upgrading to newer versions of Windows less important: the ability to use a cloud-based Windows desktop in Chrome OS.

That’s why Microsoft’s decisions regarding the Nokia X are so important: can the company successfully launch an Android device? Will the Nokia X’s forked, Windows-styled UI catch on with consumers? And will successes in overseas markets be proof enough that Microsoft could replicate that success in other territories? Will the experience prove the power of Android and convince the company’s top officers to find a way to make Android apps officially available through Windows platforms?

These are all hugely important questions Microsoft is facing—and they’re all neatly represented by the underpowered Nokia X. Priced at about $104, the device could pave the way for a new era in Microsoft’s attitude toward Google’s ascendant mobile platform. Or, it could simply represent an outlier, developed before Nokia was an official part of the Microsoft family. We’ll have to wait and see if the phone ever actually gets announced before we can know too much more about whether or not the Nokia X truly is the missing link between Microsoft and Google.

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