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

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Green was not available to comment on Android, but has openly supported the Symbian platform despite its detractors.

In a Nov. 8 Nokia blog post, Green said that despite changes to the Symbian Foundation, Nokia remained committed to Symbian and that the company will deliver "an exciting portfolio of Symbian-based smartphones to consumers worldwide." However, Rubin this week noted that whatever Green and Nokia thinks of the Symbian OS, "Symbian is fading away now with the spotlight turning to Meego."

Rubin noted that Nokia plans to shut down the Symbian Foundation's Web site. The site is set to close on Dec. 17.

The Symbian Foundation announced on Nov. 8 that it would end the foundation's role as a non-profit, making it a legal entity for licensing software and other intellectual property.

Essentially, that move means Nokia is now the only Symbian licensee, Rubin noted. Both Samsung and Sony Ericsson had already moved off the Symbian platform.

Green, in the Nokia post, talked about the value of another Nokia move in October to focus solely on the Qt application development framework to support the Symbian and Meego platforms.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said Nokia "could very likely expand the Qt development environment to support Android, making it easier for developers to build apps that support both Android and Symbian. That is the most likely scenario in the short term."

Expanding Qt to Android "might be a good strategy to implement, as having more apps would help them not just in North America but worldwide," Gold added. However, he said it is unclear how many developers will use Qt.

"Nokia does need to do something and I have often recommended to them that they ditch Symbian in smartphones and adopt Android," Gold said. "Symbian is a non-starter in the important North American market, with near zero market share. Nokia needs to have a credible smartphone offering in North America."

Carl Howe, an analyst at Yankee Group, said "an adopt-Android strategy might work for Nokia" but added that the strategy has risks that could prove a hard sell to shareholders.

Howe believes Nokia will continue its current strategy of boosing sales in Europe, Asia and Africa, where it sells more than half a billion phones in a year. "You can't argue with that volume," Howe said, but added that he wonders what will happen once those markets follow the U.S. and show a preference for smartphones.

Howe summarized the position of many Nokia observers: "Nokia faces a hard choice: either accept growing irrelevancy in the U.S. consumer market as consumers pick up new smartphones running Android, BlackBerry or [Apple's] iOS, or adopt one of the five other mobile OSs and differentiate with other phone features. Neither choice is a particularly attractive option."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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