Behind Microsoft Deal, the Specter of a Nokia Android Phone
By NICK WINGFIELD SEPTEMBER 13, 2013
SEATTLE - Before Microsoft reached a deal to buy Nokia's phone business, there was a possibility that Nokia could have switched its smartphones to Google's Android operating system sometime after late2014.
And now, it is clear that a Nokia Android phone was more than a possibility. It was real.
A team within Nokia had Android up and running on the company's Lumia handsets well before Microsoft and Nokia began negotiating Microsoft's $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia's mobile phone and services business, according to two people briefed on the effort who declined to be identified because the project was confidential. Microsoft executives were aware of the existence of the project, these people said.
Another person said the idea of Nokia using Android wasn't a part of Microsoft's discussions with the company about an acquisition, even though that was widely recognized as a possibility.
On one level, Nokia's Android effort is not shocking. Companies often have "plan Bs" in the works in case they need to change course on strategy or want to help negotiate better terms with partners. Getting Android to run on Nokia's hardware was not a Herculean engineering effort, according to the people familiar with the project.
Still, a functioning Nokia Android phone could have served as a powerful prop in Nokia's dealings with Microsoft, a tangible reminder that Nokia could move away from Microsoft's Windows Phone software and use the Android operating system, which powers more than three out of every four smartphones sold globally.