Report: Nokia preps 'Normandy' Android phone for Mobile World Congress release

Nokia (NYSE:NOK) is going to soon release a phone running a forked version of Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The release of the phone, codenamed "Normandy," will come just ahead of the closing of Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) $7.4 billion deal to buy Nokia's handset business.

According to the report, which cited unnamed sources familiar with the matter, the phone is expected to be introduced at the Mobile World Congress trade show later this month; Nokia has scheduled a press conference for Feb. 24 at the event. The report said the phone won't access some Google-developed features or Android apps from Google Play, and will instead come installed with digital services created by Nokia and Microsoft, including Here for mapping, MixRadio for streaming music and a Nokia application store.

Nokia for several months has been rumored to be developing an Android phone, and the company has repeatedly declined to comment on the rumors.

If the report prove accurate, Nokia would be using a strategy similar to that of Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), which uses its own version of Android in its Kindle Fire tablets. The thinking is that such a phone, with low-end specifications, could appeal to first-time smartphone buyers in emerging markets. Then Microsoft could hook them and get them to upgrade to Windows Phones. Previous reports have said project is designed to see how Nokia can push low-cost devices to the market with more fully-fledged smartphone apps, something Nokia's current low-cost line of Asha phones can't really accomplish.

However, Microsoft has gone after that part of the market before. Microsoft in 2012 introduced software that could run on phones with 256 MB of RAM. Nokia's best-selling Windows Phone device in 2013 was the low-end Lumia 520. In an interview with FierceWireless in January, Jo Harlow, Nokia's executive vice president of smart devices, said that "the opportunity for affordable smartphones is not unique to the U.S. and is certainly growing massively all over the world, arguably in Asia and EMEA faster" as feature phone customers move up to smartphones.

Meanwhile, according to The Verge, which also cited unnamed sources, Microsoft has started to share copies of its Windows Phone 8.1 software development kit (SDK) more broadly with developers. Microsoft has kept details on the platform close to the vest but the 8.1 update is expected to include a notification center and a voice-based personal assistant codenamed "Cortana."

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this The Verge article
- see this separate The Verge article
- see this GigaOM article

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Reports: Nokia building smartphone with forked version of Android, codenamed 'Normandy'