Google CEO: Nokia made wrong choice in Microsoft

MWC 2011: Google CEO Eric Schmidt has revealed that Nokia came close to signing a deal to develop Android handsets - and insists the Finnish company made the 'wrong choice' by teaming up with Microsoft.

The outgoing chief exec told an audience at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday that Google had held "confidential negotiations with Nokia that were extensive", before the troubled Finnish mobile giant plumped instead for rival Microsoft, inking a deal to develop devices for the company's Windows Phone platform.

Nokia began seeking a partner for smartphone development after sales of devices running its long-time Symbian operating system dwindled, and newcomer MeeGo failed to make an impact against market leaders Apple iOS, used by the iPhone 4 and iPad, and Google Android.

Shares in Nokia have fallen by up to 20 per cent since the Microsoft deal was announced, and the news has led to a revolt among shareholders. A group of former employees calling themselves 'Nokia Plan B' have declared themselves bent on toppling the company's recently appointed CEO, Stephen Elop.

Schmidt made it clear that the door was still open for Nokia, should the company choose to reconsider.

"We would have loved that they had chosen Android," he told the assembled crowd at MWC. "We would like them to adopt Android at some point in the future and that offer remains open. We think Android was a good choice for Nokia. We are sorry they made a different choice."

Nokia plans to release a handset for Microsoft's current mobile OS, Windows Phone 7, by the end of this year. Large-volume production isn't expected until 2012.

Discussing the continued success of Google's Android operating system, Schmidt said that more than 300,000 devices were being activated on the platform every day, and that 27 manufacturers were now creating gadgets for the mobile OS, whose latest version, 3.0 Honeycomb, is targeted specifically at tablets.