Preston Gralla

Nokia's upcoming Windroid phone exploits Android's Achilles' heel: Its openness

February 19, 2014 2:34 PM EST

The Android phone Nokia is expected to release next week at Mobile World Congress will apparently have an interface that looks more like Windows than Android, and feature Microsoft and Nokia services, rather those made by Android-maker Google. It looks as if Microsoft will be exploiting Android's Achilles' heel: Its openness.

Numerous news outlets have reported on the up-coming release of Nokia's low-end Android phone, to be called the Nokia X, including the Wall Street Journal. The Journal says that the phone will be "tailored in a way that won't promote some of the key Google-developed features that a more traditional Android-powered phone might." Instead of Google Maps, it's expected to have Nokia's mapping service. It won't run Google's app store, Google Play, and will instead run a Nokia app store. I would expect it to have some form of Microsoft mail rather than Gmail, and possibly Bing instead of Google as the default search engine. Microsoft's Skype will also be baked in.

As for the look and feel, think Windows Phone instead of Android. As you can see in the picture below, leaked by @evleaks on Twitter, it sports big Windows Phone-like tiles, not Android's usual app-centric interface.

Like many other people, I initially pooh-poohed the original rumors of Nokia releasing and Android phone. But that was before details leaked about the phone, and it turned out that the phone is essentially a mashup of Android and Windows -- Android underneath, but looking like Windows on top, and sporting Microsoft and Nokia services rather than Google services.

The move makes plenty of sense. Under Steve Ballmer, Microsoft reorganized to be a services and devices company, and this phone fits perfectly into that vision. Via Nokia, Microsoft will make money with device sales. And Microsoft and Nokia services will benefit from any services and advertising revenue, because Google will be locked out.

The phone is expected to have a dual-core 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 4-inch WVGA screen, 512MB of memory, 4GB of storage, microSD card slot, and a 5-megapixel camera. It's aimed at the low-cost developing market, which used to be a Nokia stronghold until it made the move to Windows Phone. Nokia will likely try to convert buyers of the phone to a more powerful Windows Phone when the buyers move up the income ladder. That's why the phone will have the Windows Phone look and feel -- people will get used to it on their Android phone, and then in Microsoft's vision, happily move up to a Windows Phone because they'll already be used to the interface.

The plan is fiendishly clever and exploits Android's Achilles' heel -- its openness. There's nothing preventing Nokia from taking Android, changing its interface to look like Windows Phone, and jettisoning all of Google's services for Nokia's and Microsoft's. It may prove to be a big winner for Microsoft in the battle for what will become one of the world's largest markets, the developing world.