Could Nokia smartphones someday run Google's Android mobile operating system? Nokia has been quick to insist the answer is no, after CEO Stephen Elop was quoted by Spanish newspaper El Pais saying otherwise.
In the Jan. 7 interview, Elop reportedly stated, "In the current ecosystem wars, we are using Windows Phone as our weapon. But we are always thinking about what's coming next, what will be the role of HTML 5, Android ... Today we are committed and satisfied with Microsoft, but anything is possible."
In a statement, Nokia spokesperson Doug Dawson said Elop's comments had been "mistranslated ... leading to some erroneous reports and speculation about our strategic direction."
In an effort to clarify Elop's comments and Nokia's focus, Dawson provided an excerpt from the interview transcript. After being asked, "Do you rule out 100 percent launching a smartphone based on Android in 2013?" Elop responded, according to Dawson's transcript:
So, the way I think about it is, in the current war on ecosystems, we are fighting with Windows Phone. That's what we're doing. Now, what we're always doing is asking, how does that evolve? What's next? What role does HTML5 play? What role does Android or other things play in the future? We're looking further into the future, but in terms of what we're bringing to market, and what we're immediately focused on, we're focused on Windows Phone.
Perhaps Elop wasn't mistranslated but was misunderstood—or misspoke.
"I think he meant exactly what he said—Nokia is not ruling out the possibility of supporting Android," Avi Greengart, an analyst with Current Analysis, told eWEEK.
"That doesn't mean Nokia has an Android phone in the works," Greengart added. "Right now, Nokia appears to be completely committed to Windows Phone, and it does not have the financial base that Samsung [which makes phones for several platforms] does to split its focus and succeed."
If Elop didn't mean to suggest Nokia is considering Android, "he should have," Technology Business Research analyst Ken Hyers told eWEEK. "The deal Nokia has with Microsoft is non-exclusive, and Microsoft is working with other OEMs to develop Windows Phone 8 devices, so Elop would be a fool to rule out developing to another platform."
Nokia needs double-digit penetration, which it won't receive quickly with Windows Phone, said Hyers. What Elop must be asking himself is whether splitting Nokia in two directions would be worth the effort and risk.
"I believe that Nokia, for the near term, needs to remain highly focused on developing to Windows Phone because they just can't afford to be distracted from making that effort successful," he said. "If at some point in the future they have enough resources to develop and market an Android phone, they should do so. ... But right now, I don't think Nokia can afford the distraction."
Gartner Research Vice President Carolina Milanesi agreed that Nokia needs to keep its eye on the immediate prize, but doesn't view Android as worthwhile future goal.
"I never thought Nokia should embrace Android," she told eWEEK. "If they really want to have a chance at building their ecosystem, if they wanted an alternative to Windows Phone, they could look at HTML5. At the moment, I do not see any reason for Nokia not to continue to focus on Windows Phone."