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

Nokia (NYSE:NOK) is developing a smartphone running on a forked and modified version of Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform, according to multiple reports.

According to both The Verge and AllThingsD, the device is codenamed "Normandy" and is designed as a new, low-end phone from Nokia. The gadget reportedly runs a customized version of Android, according to the reports, which cited unnamed sources. If the reports are true, 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.

Nokia's development of Normandy is not entirely surprising. In September the New York Times reported that, according to unnamed sources, a team within Nokia had Android running on the company's Lumia smartphones well before Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Nokia began negotiating their deal for Microsoft to acquire Nokia's handset unit. That Times report said Microsoft's push was sparked in part by a desire to keep Nokia from switching to Android since Nokia had the option in 2014 to opt out of the Windows Phone partnership it struck with Microsoft in 2011.

Additionally, noted device leaker @evleaks posted a photo on Twitter last month of a Nokia Normandy device.

Microsoft and Nokia declined to comment, according to AllThingsD.

The reports said that the Normandy 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.

Nokia employees working on Normandy were told the device is planned as a 2014 release, according to The Verge, and one source described the Normandy effort as "full steam ahead." On the surface, it seems odd that Microsoft would allow the project to go forward, since Microsoft has banked so much on its own Windows Phone software and its partnership with Nokia that it is willing to pay Nokia billions for its devices unit.

However, AllThingsD reported that Microsoft might willing to let the project survive since Nokia would be heavily altering the look of the software and services of the phone, and that the gadget's software looks more similar to Windows Phone than the software used on Nokia's existing low-cost Asha phones. Using that kind of software could be better than continuing to lose low-end smartphone market share.

Although Nokia's low-cost Lumia 520 was one of its best-selling Windows Phones in 2013, Android smartphones are still eating up much of the low-end smartphone market worldwide--which is one of the reasons Android captured a whopping 81.9 percent of the global smartphone market in the third quarter, according to research firm Gartner.

The first Normandy devices are in early manufacturing testing, and could be released by early next year, AllThingsD reported.

For more:
- see this The Verge article
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this Engadget article
- see this Computerworld article

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