A new report from the New York Times indicates that Nokia was allegedly testing out its own Android-powered devices "well before" the company's initial acquisition talks with Microsoft.
While the undisclosed sources indicate that Microsoft's executives knew about Nokia's dabbling — specifically, running Android on its Lumia smartphones — it's unclear whether the move made an official appearance at the two companies' negotiating table.
You can bet, however, that the possibility of Nokia jumping ship to Android was in Microsoft executives' minds.
What might that have done to Nokia? Come 2014, when the company was given the option of ending its partnership with Microsoft, Nokia could have simply pushed its devices into the nearly 80 per cent worldwide market share that Android currently enjoys. Which is to say, Nokia could have simply joined an already formidable fleet — for an unknown research and development price that, suggests the report, could have been a "costly setback."
However, sources speaking to the newspaper also note that porting Android over to Lumia devices was not that difficult of a task.
Microsoft, on the other hand, would likely have taken a bit of a smartphone haymaker were Nokia to switch to Android. Of all the Windows Phones that Microsoft sells, Nokia devices account for more than 80% of the total, with partners like HTC and Samsung eating up a far smaller portion of the pie. It's impossible to speculate just what Microsoft might have done to fill the gap, but the fact that such a considerable gap would have had to have been filled by the already struggling mobile platform would have certainly presented a bit of a challenge.
Nokia's flirtations with Android also pair up with the frustrations that Nokia executives expressed with Microsoft earlier this year, when they criticised the software giant for its seemingly weaker mobile app store. In other words, a platform missing some of the key apps that phone-owners like to use is going to be a bit stymied in trying to convince Android or iOS stalwarts to switch over.
"We are trying to evolve the cultural thinking [at Microsoft] to say 'time is of the essence,'" said Nokia vice president Bryan Biniak in June. "Waiting until the end of your fiscal year when you need to close your targets doesn't do us any good when I have phones to sell today."
That said, even Biniak recognised the importance of the two companies' partnership at the time, if for nothing else than to give potential smartphone purchasers more choices and to give Microsoft and Nokia more bargaining power with the other smartphone manufacturing heavyweights.
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