Nokia could finally show off those Android-based “Normandy” smartphones we’ve been seeing surface lately. The company will debut its rumored fork of Android later this month at Mobile World Congress, according to The Wall Street Journal. The event kicks off in two weeks in Barcelona, Spain, and runs through February 27th.
Nokia, whose devices and services division was acquired by Microsoft last fall, had been working on the Android phones ahead of the acquisition, WSJ says. Nokia has been the primary handset maker for Windows Phone OS-based smartphones since dropping its own OS years ago, and even its Android fork borrows heavily from the signature Windows Phone design as seen in recent leaks.
Of course Nokia isn’t expected to ship a pure version of Android on its handsets. Normandy Android is expected to lack native support for the Google Play Store and many of the services that Google offers on its handsets much like Amazon has done with its Kindle tablets.
And even before their official debut, the life expectancy for Nokia’s Android-based smartphones seems questionable at best. These come in the midst of a new CEO at the head of Microsoft which know owns Nokia; the Normandy effort seems to predate both those changes.
Ars Technica published a lengthy piece over the weekend profiling the state of forking Android and mentioned Nokia’s likely approach:
The rumors of a Nokia-built Android phone suggest this kind of approach: AOSP under the hood, but with Nokia services, not Google ones, on top.
This approach also probably works acceptably for ultra-low-end devices where compatibility isn’t such a big deal, which accounts for much of the Chinese AOSP market. But for Microsoft, this would be missing the point: the company already has a platform that’s not compatible with the latest and greatest high profile apps. It doesn’t need another one.
So what’s probably more interesting to see than Nokia’s Normandy Android phones later this month is how Microsoft and Nokia plan to position these smartphones at launch and what life they have a year from now. Definitely worth watching this space.