Microsoft Tosses Forked Android: We All Wondered How Long the Nokia X Would Last

**Editor’s Note: Click here for a recap of layoffs impacting some of the biggest names doing business in the indirect channel.**

After word this week that Microsoft will lay off up to 18,000 people comes the next piece of news: the company is nixing the Nokia X lineup and, along with it, any further use of forked Android.

“Forked Android” refers to the Android Open Source Project that represents a more “pure” Android experience than what comes on devices from the likes of LG, Samsung or HTC. Nokia used this approach in its lower-end X line.

But since the developer of Android – Google – is a key Microsoft rival, it’s no surprise that Microsoft is bidding adieu to forked Android. That’s because Microsoft bought Nokia’s Devices and Services Business this year. (That purchase also is a big reason why Microsoft is shedding jobs.)

451 Research pointed out that the Android-based Nokia X2 was just released in June; it will not feature a successor.

Instead, select Nokia X gadgets now will become part of the Lumia family and only run on Windows Phone, Microsoft’s mobile OS.

The end of the Nokia X line shouldn’t come as a shock.

“We all wondered how long the Nokia X would last once the former Nokia was firmly in the hands of Microsoft,” said Wally Swain, senior vice president of 451 Research, in a client memo this week. “Not long as it turns out.”

Meantime, a number of questions remain unanswered, Swain said. For example, what happens to phones that were supposed to attract consumers – especially those in emerging markets – to the Nokia brand?

“Nokia X was a bridge strategy between the low-end product range and Windows Phone smartphones,” Swain said. “Without the bridge, does having the lower tier make sense?”

Second, how quickly does Microsoft think it can get Windows Phone working at Nokia X price points?

“The challenge of Windows Phone was always that the specs were too strict to permit the kinds of shortcuts that allow Android devices to retail for well below $100,” Swain wrote. “I know that Qualcomm has a [reference design] for OEMs and ODMs that allows Windows Phone to run on a device originally designed for Android, but that does not mean the bill of materials cost has declined significantly.”

Finally, Swain asked, what does the Nokia X decision mean for Microsoft’s commitment to emerging markets?

“Subsidized handsets and the ability to finance, e.g., via credit cards, in developed markets mean that the $100 price point is less relevant than it is in ‘economically challenged’ segments,” Swain said.

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