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back to article Nokia's Android? It's not for the likes of us…

Images of a Nokia phone running a forked branch of Android have been circulating since November - when the project was still very much alive - with many more tumbling out of leak sites last week. For its Kindle HD range, Amazon took the Android code base and ported over its own services, and it looks as if Nokia has done the …

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Anonymous Coward

It's not going to happen

Perhaps pre Microsoft takeover, but not now. Nokia (and its new owner) already has an OS that runs well on sub par hardware, and is gaining ground both in terms of market share and the size of its ecosystem. What they lack is an OS that runs well on high end hardware*.

* Tombstoning on hardware comparable to the very best Android phones? Microsoft are having a giraffe!

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Isn't tombstoning rife on the best from Sammy, HTC, Sony and Apple also?

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Anonymous Coward

Maybe

Maybe they should ditch phones completely like Phillips did years ago and start making smart toothbrushes instead.

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Facepalm

That horse bolted so long ago

It spent years on the race track, had a nice relaxing retirement and is now resting gently on the shelves of your local Tesco.

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Anonymous Coward

If it is, you don't notice it anything like as much as you do with Windows Phone. Watching Skype resume (and knowing it is hit or miss as to whether or not you received any notifications, while Skype was in the background) is painful.

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Watching Skype resume (and knowing it is hit or miss as to whether or not you received any notifications, while Skype was in the background) is painful.

It's not Microsoft's fault if some crappy app, written by some fly-by-night company doesn't work as it's supposed to do. Especially when its requirements weren't known to the OS designers, so they could design round it.

Oh hang on...

The Facebook and Twitter integration in the People Hub is excellent (if you like that sort of thing). In fact the People Hub is just excellent, and was my favourite feature of Win Pho. How MS managed to not build Skype into the OS as well is a total mystery to me. I guess that they were trying to keep the operators sweet, but seeing as the operators seem to have been actively working against Windows Phone, I don't see why MS didn't tell them to 'go take a running jump', and build Skype into the phone totally seamlessly. And hopefully better than Apple's sometimes weird and confusing implemetation of Facetime - which is sometimes great, but sometimes behaves very strangely indeed.

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Royalty free

I thought MS were going to start dish out WP software licenses for free so that cheapo handsets could compete with Android efforts? As the Normandy device is slated to run a forked version of Android that won't have access to Google Play and the plethora of apps etc available there, what's the benefit over Windows Phone marketplace?

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Coat

Re: Royalty free

It may well be that the benefit is volume and chips. Because MS only have one vendor working at the low-end with Windows Phone (Nokia), the chip-makers probably limit their effort in that direction. Windows Phone is only certified for a limited number of chips.

So if there are loads of Androids being made at these super low prices, then there will be a much greater chance of chip makers developing a super-cheap SoC. Which probably won't work with Windows, but will with Android. If you're trying to sell a phone for $60 then a cheaper chip, that's lower power and allows a cheaper battery, suddenly is a killer feature. The lack of suitable chips may be forcing Nokia to sell their Asha phones (or any Windows alternative) for a few dollars more.

Obviously a fist full of dollars makes a big difference in the very price-sensitive emerging market. That's the good the bad and* the ugly truth.

*I'll get my coat. It started as an accident, and I couldn't stop myself. Honest!

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Aren't ARM SOCs going for as low as 50 cents? Let's imagine a proper dual core goes for 2 bucks, how much can they save by going lower?

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Silver badge

> Aren't ARM SOCs going for as low as 50 cents?

ARM chips are going for that, or were some years ago. These, however, were not SOCs and were fairly limited in speed and facilitities, for the sort of things that Z80s used to sell for in the 90s. System-on-Chips include much more than just an ARM CPU and consequently do cost somewhat more. Dual core SOCs seem to be around $10.

Windows Phone is stuck on a very small range of SoCs. Originally each OEM was restricted (by Microsoft) to one specific supplier.

Android and other makers can use whatever SoCs they can implement and can thus benefit when new ones have added features that replace discrete components or other means of making them cheaper.

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Windows everywhere, and not a fire escape in sight

> It's the lack of a Plan B, C or D that resulted in the two-year vacuum - and this was the consequence of complacency during the OPK* era.

Really? It was my understanding that the problem during the OPK era was that they had *too many* plans, all fighting for resources and supremacy - Maemo/Meego/Symbian/Meltemi/etc.?

Was it not during Elop's tenure that all the existing plan B, C, D, etc.operating systems were scrrapped, and in an entirely unexpected bout of nepotism, the "all or nothing, bet the farm on a three-legged foal" plan A of Windows Phone was initiated?

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Re: Windows everywhere, and not a fire escape in sight

Sure, Nokia had all those different OSes bubbling away in R&D. But none of them could be counted as a plan B, because none of them were anywere close to market. Partly because nobody in management seems to have been able to prioritise, and get any of them out of long-term R&D and into some kind of production pipeline.

So Elop had a real lack of choices. Even the update to Asha, that Nokia had been working on in various ways for years didn't arrive any quicker than they got Windows Phone to market.

I assume he could have got Android to market as quick (or quicker) than Windows Phone, but decided that wasn't the right option. So you can criticise him legitimately for that, but it's impossible to know which would have worked out best. For the shareholders I suspect MS did, as they got a $2 billion subsidy from MS to tide them over the lean period, and then the phone division sold to MS - neither of which would have happened had they gone Android.

The other thing that I might criticise Elop for was not having the guts to try and restructure Nokia's management and force through whichever one of their systems he thought best. Surely as a CEO you ought to have faith in your ability to make the company you're in charge of do as you tell them? But to be fair to him, he may have decided that there wasn't anything that could be ready for market in 12 - 18 months. Plus the same problem of lack of ecosystem due to low market share would have happened with their own system, as has with Win Pho. Only worse. And with no support from MS, or $2 billion smackeroos to help ease the pain.

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FAIL

Meego

"I suspect many a Reg reader would have opted for a Nokia Android had one been available during this period."

This Reg reader would have opted for a N9 if the people on charge of Nokia didnt' f*cked it all...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Meego

I did and a fine piece of kit it is too.

Dweeb

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Roo
Bronze badge

"It's the lack of a Plan B, C or D that resulted in the two-year vacuum - and this was the consequence of complacency during the OPK* era"

My pet conspiracy theory is that they actually had been working towards a WinPhone platform for quite a long time - and that the product vacuum was due to Microsoft being late with a workable cut of WinPhone.

Here's why...

When I visited Tampere back in '05 I had a few beers with a guy who was doing R&D into what the next (smart)phone platform should be. To my surprise, despite the fact they already seemed a long way down the Linux road already (Trolltech etc), he was adamant that Nokia would standardise on a Microsoft platform (CLR, C#). At the time I figured the guy just loved the MS stuff and was basically fighting his corner, however it looks like he was right - hopefully he still has a job...

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The problem in the OPK years was that the Symbian team consistently was succeeding in frustrating the obvious line of R&D around Maemo and Meego. Nokia delivered a series of forever promising but crippled developer oriented devices. Not enough memory, slow CPUs, clumsy form factors, business decisions to exclude a phone stack from the N810, etc. On several occasions things looked like they were coming together, but projects were cancelled or converted to run Symbian instead of Meego. That was a combination of politics around Symbian and a near total technical leadership vacuum. OPK was a CEO with a financial background and he probably actually believed Symbian was good enough and a future proof strategy when it was quite obvious neither was the case. There was no real CTO in charge of the technical roadmap. Nokia fired and promoted away several executives to this position but it never amounted to a role that actually had impact. Even today the CTO is actually merely the head of nokia research and I doubt he takes decisions that either Nokia Maps or Nokia Networks care about.

Elop continued the tradition of not really giving Linux any chance whatsoever. He killed Meego based on the notion that it would take years for it to take over marketshare from Symbian. As we know now, windows phone had exactly the same problem. Meltemi was in an advanced stage of development when it was killed based on the notion that Ascha was good enough and that windows phone would scale down anyway. That too turned out to be a fallacy.

Finally Android was always a possibility. People think of Android as an OS. Instead it is just a runtime. It would have run fine on Meego, Meltemi and probably with some effort also on Symbian. Just like it runs fine on windows desktops, OSX, blackberry, and other platforms. Application compatibility is a business choice, not a technical choice. Probably if Nokia had take the obvious decision to support Dalvik on Maemo in 2008 (which ran Android just fine on my N800), it would have had a compatibility story around Maemo/Meego applications and a much smoother transition away from Symbian. The need for that was obvious around 2006 already for anybody in the business with half a brain.

Fundamentally Nokia was plagued by bad business decisions inspired by a fundamental lack of understanding of the technology, user needs, and market. Nokia killed their touchscreen version of Symbian at the exact same time Google bought Android and Apple got serious about the iphone (2004/2005 timeframe).

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Thumb Up

... many a Reg reader would have opted for a Nokia Android...

+1

Best phone hardware you can get. Add a really good processor, excellent (and more robust than the Lumia) screen, wads of memory, a microSD card slot and Android (well, a branch that removes all that data slurping at least) and you have a winner in my book.

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Stop

Can we get something straight here

Nokia:

A Finnish company that is to give up making mobile handsets that is in the process of off-loading that business to Microsoft (Q1 this year) who have a licence to use the Nokia name for handsets. MS do not yet own that division.

So currently it is still Nokia until the deal gets wrapped up later this year. As soon as MS take control of Nokia's handset division I think you will find that this project will get canned faster than a pork pie at a Bar Mitzvah. Anyone considered the possibility that this project was created to twist MS's arm into buying the handset division.

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Ditching Symbian was a mistake

I've owned a few Maemo devices and they're OK, but Nokia never really gave them enough resources to succeed and the attempt to transition to MeeGo was suicidal as it meant the not-too-bad N900 never got a proper successor (until the N9 and that was too late).

Elop was right to look at the MeeGo mess and kill it off as it was never going to build back market share. Despite claims of nepotism, Windows was an obvious choice.

However, I think Elop and Nokia made a huge mistake in getting rid of Symbian. The Asha range is all very impressive for an inexpensive device, but Nokia have stuggled to squeezed features into Series 40 that Symbian already had. Symbian's hardware requirements are pretty low, and it could certainly run on an Asha-class device. So, if Nokia simply moved Symbian downmarket (which was the plan in any case) then they would have had a better Asha range and Symbian sales would probably have not collapsed in the way they did.

As for Nokia and Android.. well, if there was an Android version of the Lumia 1020 then I would buy it. Simples. But although Windows is a good platform (I use it on my work phone) I'm not tempted to buy a WinPho device with my own money. If Nokia introduced Android devices then it is quite likely that they'd badly hurt Windows sales, and for that reason I would be very surprised if the Normandy ever comes to market (or at least to most markets).

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