Nokia was (again) reported to be working on an Android-powered smartphone, although it has now been suggested that the vendor will create its own “fork” of the platform that will see it breaking free from the Google Play ecosystem.
According to The Verge, Nokia is looking to create its own flavour of Android to power devices that are similar to its current Asha line – mass-market, rather than high-end, where Windows Phone is its current platform of choice. The work is taking place under the code name “Normandy”.
The most obvious potential fly in the ointment is the imminent acquisition of Nokia’s Devices & Services unit by Microsoft, a company that is unlikely to want to further the reach of the Google platform – even if the plan seems to be to create a separate, but related ecosystem around it.
The most similar analogy is the Fire OS used in Amazon’s Kindle Fire line. Amazon has previously said that Android apps are by-and-large compatible with its platform, but are instead monetised and distributed through its own channels – enabling it to leverage the size of the Android developer base while controlling its own ecosystem.
By supporting an Android-compatible platform, Nokia may find it easier to lure developers to support its mass-market devices, rather than calling for them to work with another discrete technology. It will also help put it on a more level playing field against its Android-powered rivals.
Previously, the lack of support for certain key applications on the Windows Phone platform has been seen as a significant drawback, but Nokia certainly seems to have been active in addressing this shortfall – although Windows Phone still is not a first-tier target for many developers.
However, this strategy would also mean that there is no single toolset for developers to address all Nokia devices, due to the fact that its high-end devices would use one operating system, and its mass market devices another. The company had previously worked to address this through its support of Qt, although this fell by the wayside when it revamped its platform strategy in 2011.
While Nokia’s smartphone woes have been well documented, the company has also seen its mass-market devices coming under pressure from a raft of rivals from emerging markets, who have brought low-cost Android devices to market.
While it has attempted to position some of its Asha line as smartphones, these have not been able to benefit from the same thriving content and apps ecosystem offered by Google.