Talking tech since 2003

As the world grows accustomed to Nokia’s handset division now being a part of the Microsoft machine, revelations from the time before the buyout two weeks ago are starting to trickle out. Today, the New York Times’ Bits Blog reports that Nokia was working on creating mobile devices that ran Google’s open-source Android operating system, and interesting wrinkle for a company that had previously bet its entire device line on the Windows Mobile platform.

The post points out that Nokia had been locked into a contract with Microsoft back in 2011 to stick with the Windows platform exclusively through 2014. At that point, the company could’ve switched tracks to the far more popular Android platform—which would probably be the right move considering the low user adoption rate of Microsoft’s mobile operating system.

So what’s the significance of this report? In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it’s not too revelatory to realize that a hardware manufacturer like Nokia wouldn’t explore other possibilities for its products in the future. In fact, I’d have been more shocked if a report came out saying that Nokia had never toyed with the idea of building a phone to run Android.

I suppose, though, that one of the main reasons this story is getting so much attention is that it helps add fuel to the popular sentiment that Windows Mobile—and, by extension, Nokia—are locked into a kind of death-spiral together. The idea, as it seems, is that Windows Mobile isn’t popular, and therefore isn’t valuable. Since Nokia only makes Windows Mobile phones, it, too, is not valuable. By emphasizing the fact that Nokia was working on Android-based handsets too seems to give off a vibe that Nokia was looking for alternatives to its current business plan, hoping to get out with a viable device as soon as it was able.

But to me, I get the feeling that the thinking behind Nokia’s Android efforts wasn’t based on desperation or unhappiness with Microsoft. If nothing else, Nokia needs to know its business, and since Android’s the number one mobile OS in the industry, it makes sense for the company to know it inside and out. Frankly, I’m hoping that Nokia continues to experiment with Android-based phones internally, if for no other reason than to help it figure out ways to improve its Windows devices. There’s nothing better for driving innovation than good competition.

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