Nokia says no to Android

Jason AnkenyThe worldwide smartphone market posted 64 percent annual growth during the second quarter according to research firm Canalys--Apple (with shipments up 61 percent year-over-year), Nokia (up 41 percent) and Research In Motion (also up 41 percent) all contributed to the jump, but the biggest difference maker was Google, as shipments of devices running its Android mobile OS increased a staggering 886 percent over the previous year. Last week, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said sales of Android smartphones now total about 200,000 a day. "People are finally beginning to figure out how successful Android is," Schmidt said at the inaugural Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, Calif., adding that Android device sales totaled about 100,000 per day just two months earlier. "It looks like Android is not just phenomenal but incredibly phenomenal in its growth rate. God knows how long that will continue."

Android sales remain some distance behind Nokia (NYSE:NOK), however--the handset maker still controls 38 percent of the international smartphone market, shipping a record 23.8 million Symbian smartphones in Q2, Canalys reports. The Symbian Foundation adds it shipped over 27 million devices last quarter, translating to almost 300,000 devices shipped each day (or 207 per minute or more than three per second, if you prefer). Although Nokia will continue to employ Symbian across its lower-end handsets, the company said in June that its forthcoming N8 device heralds the last N-series smartphone running the OS--moving forward, Nokia will instead rely on MeeGo, the Linux-based operating system combining its Maemo effort with Intel's Moblin platform.

But given Android's breakout success and its role in reviving the fortunes of rival device manufacturer Motorola, some pundits are asking why Nokia doesn't embrace Android as well. Not gonna happen, according to Nokia executive vice president Niklas Savander: In an interview with Engadget, Savander said the company has no plans to introduce an Android device. "We fundamentally believe in our capability to add value on top of just producing great hardware," Savander said. "And so, you have to build something different. And so, in a way, then it's just the question of, do we believe that we can be better or more efficient in differentiating by picking up Android versus something like MeeGo. So, it becomes almost a technical question. Now, of course, the other thing that we factor in is that Android is run by Google, and that just means that potentially it's much more in their hands. We're not prepared to hand over our destiny to a third party on that one. So, it is, of course, hard to justify whether that's relevant or not, but having 40 percent market share of the smartphones, we think that we need to have a bit of a say in the platform."

So Nokia remains committed to MeeGo--will developers follow suit? A recent survey published by cross-platform development solutions provider Appcelerator suggests otherwise. Ninety percent of developers say they are very interested in creating applications for Apple's iPhone, 84 percent express comparable enthusiasm for the iPad and 81 percent are casting their lot with Android. On the other hand, 34 percent of developers tell Appcelerator they're very interested in writing BlackBerry apps, a number that slides to 27 percent for Windows Phone 7, 15 percent for Symbian, 13 percent for webOS and just 11 percent for MeeGo. The scheduled release of Nokia's first MeeGo device later this year should fuel developer interest, but even so it's going to be difficult for Nokia to attract their attention--after all, it seems like everyone's mind is on Android. Everyone except Nokia, that is. -Jason