Nokia tonight confirmed plans to release its own phone running Google’s Android mobile operating system, expanding beyond Microsoft’s Windows Phone just as the Redmond company prepares to acquire Nokia’s device business.

Nokia-X-Dual-SIM-frontHowever, the new “Nokia X” phones will connect by default to Microsoft services, such as the OneDrive cloud storage system, not to Google’s cloud storage service, said Nokia executive Stephen Elop, introducing the phone during a news conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Skype, Bing and are also featured in the phone.

“With this, Microsoft will be able to reach people it has never talked to before around the world,” said Elop, who will be rejoining Microsoft as part of the Nokia acquisition.

In addition to the Nokia X and Nokia X+, with 4-inch screens, the company also introduced a larger version of the phone, the Nokia XL, with a 5-inch display.

The new lineup is a concession to the strength of the Android ecosystem around the world. But Elop went out of his way during the event to say that the Nokia X doesn’t represent a white flag for Microsoft overall.

“We are deliberately using the Android open source project without Google’s cloud services,” he said, saying that he expects many Nokia X users to eventually graduate to Windows Phone, giving users “a gateway to Microsoft.”

The Nokia X will be targeted to emerging markets and priced below Nokia’s Windows Phones, starting at 89 euros or about $122.

Tony Cripps, principal analyst at Ovum, says in a statement that the Nokia X brings “a level of design and build quality to the low-price smartphone segment that is largely lacking today. Other OEMs will be forced to up their game in this key market segment.”

He adds, “This may well stimulate a response from Google, especially in developing markets where its focus on ecosystem monetization has been limited. Microsoft’s pragmatism in adopting AOSP gives it a chance of finally taking the global consumer technology fight to Google, Apple, and Samsung. The result, in the long term, may be a company barely recognizable as the one we know today.”

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  • Simon

    If they want this to succeed, then it should be made to use Android and Windows Phone operating systems. A simple boot option to select either operating system would give users the best of both worlds and achieve what blackberry failed to do.

    • JimInAuburn

      The average user is not going to be rebooting their phone depending on which feature they want to use. Both phones do basically the same thing, just differently.

  • guest

    The phone is a dead end. This is simply Elop padding his resume – Android experience required in the next role.

  • Christopher Budd

    I’m going to play a bit of conspiracy theory here and wonder if part of this is a way for Microsoft to safely look at the Android source code for possible patent challenges in a way that protects them.

    Without boring with a lot of detail, when we’re talking about any source code that’s not yours you have to treat your employees who have looked at that code as contaminated: if they work on your code there’s the risk that the owner of that code can claim your employee basically duplicated their code. Whether baseless or not, it’s enough to support a lawsuit and so most companies mitigate that by keeping employees exposed to other’s source code firewalled. For instance, I knew people that worked on the Microsoft Java VM back in the day who then couldn’t work on other products because of that contamination.

    My having a division working on Android that’s insulated like this, Microsoft has a way to work with the source code but keep themselves relatively protected. It could give them a way to monitor Android so they can make stronger claims when they approach other handset makers and “ask” for royalties.

    It’s a stretch, I admit. But at least worth thinking about.

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