Microsoft is set to buy Nokia’s phone division for $7.1 billion, but that deal isn’t completed yet. Until it is, Nokia is still an independent company free to operate however it chooses. According to The Wall Street Journal, Nokia has one last device it wants to push out the door before Microsoft takes over—”Normandy,” Nokia’s long-rumored Android phone.
The new phone is a low-end replacement for Nokia’s S40 Asha platform, which the company first started in 1999. Windows Phone currently doesn’t work on low-end hardware, so despite Nokia’s Microsoft betrothal, it doesn’t have many options for a low-end device targeting developing markets. The Normandy prototype uses a forked version of Android, similar to the Amazon Kindle Fire line of devices. It runs the open source parts of Android with all the Google functionality removed, and it would be up to Nokia to fill in the gaps. Judging by a previous leak, Nokia will also be heavily skinning Android to the point where it appears to be a wallpaper-less black screen with only icons. It’s also missing core Android hardware buttons like Home and Recent, with seemingly only a back button for navigation.
An Android-based device could take advantage of the huge Android app ecosystem, but that only comes after you build an app store and convince developers to submit apps to it. A device like this would no doubt be immediately shut down once Microsoft is in charge, so don’t expect much in the way of support. While a Nokia Android phone is a fun “alternate universe” device, unless Microsoft has a huge change of company policy, this device is firmly in the “dead on arrival” category.
This is not the first time Nokia has done something like this. It released a Meego version of the N9, its long-in-development Symbian successor, before immediately abandoning the platform and switching to Windows Phone. The Wall Street Journal‘s sources say the device will be shown at Mobile World Congress, so we’ll be sure to take a look at the Nokia that could have been.