Ina Fried

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Why Nokia Is Building an Android Phone and Why Microsoft Might Not Kill It

So, is Nokia really working on an Android-based phone, and would Microsoft really go ahead with such a device?

The answer to the first one is definitely yes. And, surprisingly, the answer to the second question may be yes, as well.

nokia_normandy

@evleaks

Nokia’s low-end mobile phone unit has been working for some time on an effort that goes alternatively by the names Normandy and AoL (Asha on Linux). Normandy aims to repurpose the open-source version of Android into a better entry-level smartphone than Nokia has had with its current Asha line, which is based on the aging Series 40 operating system.

As reported by The Verge and also confirmed to AllThingsD by sources at the Finnish phone maker, the Normandy project has survived despite Nokia’s plan to sell both its Windows Phone unit and the low-end mobile phone business to Microsoft.

As to whether Microsoft will let the project see the light of day once it acquires Nokia early next year, the answer is less certain. However, within Nokia there is a sense that Redmond may be willing to pursue the project.

While Normandy has some open-source elements of Android at its core, Nokia would be heavily customizing the look of the software, as well as the services at its core, much as Amazon has with its Kindle line.

According to a Nokia source, the software has a look more similar to Windows Phone than to the “squircle” icons used on the Asha. Normandy would also serve as a way to deliver Microsoft services such as Bing and Skype.

That is seen by some at Microsoft as a more palatable alternative than watching more of those first-time smartphone buyers sign up not just for Android but also for Google’s array of services.

The first Normandy devices are in early manufacturing testing, and could be released by early next year, the source said. Noted hardware leaker @evleaks posted a photo on Twitter last month of a Nokia Normandy device.

Representatives of both Microsoft and Nokia declined to comment.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald