Google hopeful that Android will run Nokia smartphones

Nokia could build Android-based phones for U.S., where the worldwide mobile phone leader remains weak, analysts say

A Google executive said this week that he's hopeful that Nokia will decide to adopt the Android platform after new leadership at the world's biggest mobile phone manufacturer finishes a new evaluation of smartphone options.

Comments by Andy Rubin, vice president of Google's mobile platforms, during a conference this week prompted speculation about Nokia's upcoming smartphone plans. Analysts have expressed continuing concerns about Nokia's abysmal smartphone performance in the U.S., and are hoping that the company's recently appointed top leadership can change the downward trend.

While Nokia's Symbian OS is still the world's top mobile platform, it's widely seen as declining in importance. In fact, Finland-based Nokia has teamed with Intel to create a newer open source Meego mobile OS platform.

Rubin coyly avoided saying whether he has met with Nokia officials to discuss Android, but made it clear he hopes Nokia does use the widely popular platform, now used in some 175 phone models globally.

Rubin talked about his hopes for Nokia during an onstage question-and-answer session at the Dive into Mobile conference on Monday. (An All Things Digital video of highlights from the conference includes the Nokia comments at about six minutes in.)

Asked pointedly whether Google has discussed Android with Nokia, Rubin answered: "I think the company has new leadership and ... they are evaluating what their options are ... I'm a big proponent of Android and I hope they adopt it."

About whether a meeting took place, Rubin only said: "I'm not going to talk in detail."

A Nokia spokeswoman refused to comment Wednesday on whether executives from the two firms have discussed Android adoption by Nokia.

Analysts speculated that the two firms have met -- or will meet -- to discuss Android. Such a discussion makes sense given Nokia's current mamagement transformation, they add.

Nokia is clearly the leading mobile phone manufacturer worldwide, holding about 34% of the overall market and 33% of the global smartphone market, according to recent figures released by Gartner and IDC respectively.

However, Nokia trails other smartphone OSs and devices in the U.S., and does not even register on some surveys, including ComScore's most recent ranking.

It would seem unlikely that Nokia would easily accept Android, given that one outgoing smartphone business executive, Anssi Vanjoki, had blasted the Google created platform in September. Vanjoki used a slur in arguing that manufacturers can hurt their brands by selling phones that users buy for the operating system rather than the phone hardware.

Even so, Rubin's hope that Nokia will adopt the platform makes sense, analysts said.

Nokia officials "could change their business plan and adopt Android for the U.S. market alone," suggested Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner, in an e-mail. "That would be a smart idea." The new leadership might be more willing to adopt Android in some fashion, some analysts said.

The new leadership at Nokia includes former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop, who was named CEO in September, and Rich Green, a former Sun Microsystems executive who ran the company's mobile Java unit, who was named CTO.

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