Nokia hopes Android and Microsoft will help sell low-end smartphones

The company is combining Android and Microsoft services in the new X family

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The Nokia X+ and Nokia XL are expected to start shipping in the same parts of the world during the beginning of the second quarter, and will cost 99 euros  and 109 euros, respectively.

The new strategy isn't something Nokia has developed overnight, but worked on for a couple of years and the company's choice comes out of necessity, according to Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics.

"Microsoft hasn't delivered a low-end platform with Windows Phone 8, and certainly Nokia's Series 40-based Asha phones aren't a credible alternative either," Mawston said.

Those factors make Android the only alternative if Nokia wants to keep traction in a segment of the market where it's still a big fish. The company has over 30 percent market share of feature phones, owners of which are buying cheap smartphones next, according to Mawston.

On Sunday, Microsoft said it is working on making Windows Phone a better fit for low-end phones. Nokia will take advantage of that and launch cheaper Lumias, but at the same time, the cost of X family devices will also drop, according to Elop.

However, even if Nokia felt forced to go with Android, it is a move that comes with several risks. The addition of a Windows-like user interface on top of the Android open source code may end up confusing buyers, but it's a risk the company has to take, Mawston said.

"In that low end of the market -- which tends to be a little less sophisticated -- buyers won't be too worried about what the underlying layers are. They just want a phone that looks good and works well," Mawston said.

Saadi agreed that this push doesn't come without risks: "I think it's an interesting development. However, and this is a big however, if this strategy isn't well implemented and well executed, it could backfire with, for example, the Android devices cannibalizing the low-end of Windows Phone. They need to make a distinction between the two and communicate that," he said.

Having two operating systems could also result in internal strife at Microsoft when its acquisition of Nokia's phone business is approved, according to Saadi.

Where there is risk, there is also a reward. Forked Android or AOSP devices had a 25 percent market share with 71 million shipped smartphones during the fourth quarter -- mainly thanks to China, India and adjacent countries, according to ABI Research. That's more than Apple's iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry put together.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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