Nokia launched Android-based smartphones Monday at Mobile World Congress. Take a closer look at what this means for Microsoft's mobile future.
mediocre pixel density of 187 ppi. It includes 768 MB of RAM, 4 GB of storage, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, and a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera. It will debut in Q2 for €109 (around $150).
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop introduces the Android-based Nokia X platform at Mobile World Congress. (Source: Nokia)
4. Who are the Nokia X devices for? As the new devices' modest specs might imply, they're not aimed at current iPhone and Samsung Galaxy users. The premium market offers relatively little growth opportunity and formidable competition, but demand for budget devices in emerging countries remains strong. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who will soon join Microsoft to oversee its device efforts, explicitly said the Nokia X line targets this latter group. In fact, the phone might not be available in saturated markets such as the United States. Nokia announced plans to distribute the phone only in parts of Asia, Europe, India, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.
5. How does this affect Microsoft and Windows Phone? Some have viewed the Nokia X platform as the company's last hurrah as an independent company. Others have said Nokia, maker of the majority of Windows Phone handsets, is denigrating Microsoft's smartphone platform by embracing Android. While both interpretations have some merit, it's important to remember that Elop will transition to Microsoft along with his company's hardware teams. It would be illogical for him to introduce a platform that could subvert the products for which he'll soon be responsible.
Elop said as much during remarks at Mobile World Congress, pointing out that while most Android devices lead users to Google's cloud, Nokia X delivers them to Microsoft's. As he described it, the new platform is a "feeder system"; it will attract first-time smartphone buyers, who, after becoming accustomed to Microsoft's services, will eventually upgrade to higher-margin Lumia handsets that run Windows Phone 8. Elop also said the Lumia line remains Nokia's priority.
With new CEO Satya Nadella still settling in, Microsoft is in a time of flux, of course, and we don't know whether the company will support Nokia X over the long term. Microsoft corporate VP Joe Belfiore played it coy at MWC, where the company confirmed spring updates for both Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. "They'll do some things we're excited about, and some things we're less excited about," he said of Nokia's last days as a standalone company.
Carolina Milanesi, director of insight at Kantar Worldpanel, sees Nokia X's potential to help Microsoft. Milanesi provided live commentary over Twitter during Nokia's MWC presentation, noting that if Microsoft chooses not to kill the Nokia X family, "it will show we have a new [Microsoft] that [puts] ecosystem first."
She said Elop's promise that Nokia X would connect and empower people in a mobile-first, cloud-first world is "totally on message with Nadella and [Microsoft's] bigger picture."
6. What about smartphone customers in developed markets? Nokia X might help Microsoft pursue emerging markets, but the company also has plans for customers in more lucrative and mature areas. The aforementioned Windows Phone update, for example, was announced alongside nine new Windows Phone partners, including major OEMs such as Lenovo and LG. Belfiore didn't dive into many of the update's new features, but reports suggest Windows Phone 8.1 will gain, among other things, a notification center and Cortana, a rumored competitor to the iPhone's Siri. Reports also say Microsoft, in a move that would further complicate its relationship with Nokia X, might open Windows Phone, and perhaps even Windows 8.1, to Android apps.
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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio
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