Why Nokia's Android phone is Microsoft's Trojan Horse against Google

OPINION: T3's Ben Furfie explains why he believes Nokia making an Android smartphone will boost Windows Phone

Nokia’s announcement of a family of smartphones powered by Google’s Android operating system might seem like a strange move – especially as the company is now owned by Google’s arch-rival Microsoft.

However, there is a lot that makes sense for both companies about a Nokia Android smartphone.

It might not seem like it at first – after all, Microsoft’s own operating system Windows Phone 8 is a distant third place behind Android and Apple’s iOS.

However, the Nokia X – alongside its bigger brothers, the Nokia X+ and the Nokia XL – may turn out to be a huge boon for Microsoft and Nokia. From the instant you pick up the phone, it’s clear that while the phone is powered by Android, this is Microsoft and Nokia’s show.

Microsoft apps like Skype, OneDrive and Outlook take pride of place alongside Nokia’s own apps like Here Maps.

Throw in the benefit of being able to run Android apps – all under the guise of it being a Microsoft and Nokia smartphone – and you can see how it could benefit the two companies.

It’s important to remember that Nokia’s new Android smartphones aren’t aimed at those who already own a smartphone. It’s aimed at the next billion smartphone buyers.

“The Nokia X will be a feeder system for Lumia,” Stephen Elop told those attending the phones’ launch event. “We’re introducing the next billion people to Microsoft”.

Microsoft also stressed how this is its and Nokia’s show – not Google’s. “Overall, we’re delighted to introduce the best of Microsoft with Nokia X,” said Laura Kingwell. She works as part of Microsoft’s Skype team.

This new operating system and family of smartphones is laser focused on capturing those mobile phone users in Asia, Africa and Europe who are still using Nokia’s feature phones.

However, the reality is that you and I don’t really care about what is going on in developing markets. The big question for us is whether or not we will ever see a high-end Nokia smartphone that runs Android launched in the UK.

I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I’m afraid I’ve had to bet the answer would be no. The simple reality is that Nokia’s Android line isn’t designed to compete with Windows Phone 8 – it’s designed to provide a cheap way for Nokia to feed customers through to where it makes the real money – it’s Lumia line.

Will we see the Nokia X land in the UK? In my opinion, yes. However, I don’t think we’ll ever see a high end Nokia Android smartphone.

And you know what – I wouldn’t want to either. As good as Nokia’s hardware is, I really don’t know if it’s got what it takes to compete against the likes of Samsung.

Going full Android would mean it just becomes another Android smartphone maker – and that would do a huge disservice to Nokia and its handsets.

The fact is the Nokia X is designed to capitalise on Nokia’s brand worth. For many in developing markets, Nokia is still top dog – or at least top dog in terms of what they can afford. In places like the UK, it simply can’t compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple.

If you look at the price of the phones – starting at £37 – it’s clear that Nokia’s goal is to provide those current Nokia users with only one option that makes sense. Stick with Nokia.

The reality is that these smartphone aren’t going to hurt Microsoft. The markets it and Nokia are targeting with the Nokia X range aren’t those who were going to buy a Nokia Lumia handset. They’re simply too expensive for them.

The companies it will hurt are Google and Mozilla. Both companies have said that the next major growth areas for them are developing markets. The Nokia X has the potential to use the strengths of Android against Google. It will also likely allow Nokia’s brand strength in those markets to block Google and its partners from those markets.

If Microsoft and Nokia can capture a large percentage of those smartphone buyers – train them to use smartphones in the way Windows Phone 8 works – then Microsoft’s more premium operating system becomes the natural choice for them when they upgrade – not Android.

And that could make Nokia’s Android smartphones the greatest Trojan Horse since the actual Trojan Horse.