Microsoft's announced yesterday that it will kill off the Nokia X line of Android phones. But left unsaid was whether this ends the company's brief flirtation with Android. Is Microsoft's embrace of Android a thing of the past?
The low-cost Nokia X line was aimed at emerging markets. It is Android-based, but features Microsoft services on it, such as Outlook.com and Skype. Its interface looks much like Windows Phone. The idea was that Microsoft would make money on services, and that when users moved up the economic ladder, they might purchase Windows Phone devices. Yesterday Microsoft said that it was instead going to sell low-cost Nokia Windows Phones instead of the Nokia X line.
But the Nokia X wasn't Microsoft's only foray into Android. Before yesterday's announcement, Microsoft had a number of other Android deals underway. It had signed a contract to allow two Indian device makers to build dual-boot Android-Windows Phone handsets. Huawei is also said to be building such a device for the U.S. market. And last week, the Web site @evleaks reported that Microsoft and Nokia were planning to release a Lumia phone based on Android.
Microsoft yesterday said nothing about any of those plans. And it didn't say whether it was abandoning Android altogether, or just the Nokia X line. But given that Nokia X was Microsoft's biggest Android push, my guess is that Microsoft's interest in Android is gone.
The decision to kill Nokia X is a significant backtrack from what Microsoft was saying back in April about the phones. Back then, Microsoft essentially said it was all in with Android. In an interview with Microsoft executive Terry Myerson, May Jo Foley asked about the Nokia X line: "Will you keep those around once the Nokia transaction is final?" Myerson's support for the line was unequivocal:
"More users of our applications and services is fantastic. If someone is (using an iPad), I hope they really are using Office and OneDrive and Skype, on that iPad. That is a fantastic Microsoft customer. It's great for Microsoft. The same will be true of Nokia. I genuinely feel that way."
He may have genuinely felt that way back in April, but that's not what Microsoft feels now. The company will probably still release Office for Android. But by giving up on the Nokia X line, Microsoft is signalling that other than that, the Android experiment is over.