Last year, Microsoft acquired Nokia's devices and services business in what appeared to be an effort to make its own Windows Phone hardware going forward. While Microsoft will still continue making Windows Phones under the Nokia brand, it looks like the two companies will be making an Android device as well.
The always trustworthy @evleaks was on Twitter today again with screenshots of what's being referred to as Normandy. It's a secret project that's intended to bring Windows Phone design and services to Android through Google's Android Open Source Project. In other words, Microsoft has forked Android to build a Windows Phone-like experience on top of Google's mobile OS.
Two ways to interact with Normandy. pic.twitter.com/uUY2XF4h7i
— @evleaks (@evleaks) January 16, 2014
According to The Verge, Normandy is being proposed as an entry-level phone for emerging markets. The devices will reportedly feature a 4-inch display, Qualcomm S4 CPU, 3MP rear-facing camera, 4GB of onboard storage and 512MB of RAM.
Here's another shot of the device, courtesy of @evleaks:
Nokia Normandies, 2014 pic.twitter.com/L6IAlEfKjG
— @evleaks (@evleaksES) January 13, 2014
So, why is Microsoft making an Android phone with Nokia? Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet says it would be a great way to nab new Windows Phone users without having to sell them Windows Phone hardware. Even if it was a forked version of Android, it would still run all the Windows Phone 8 services that are the real money makers for Microsoft.
As Foley points out, one of Ballmer's last acts as CEO was to transition the company into the devices and services business. Keeping your services exclusive to a small platform like Windows Phone doesn't make any sense. Sure, Microsoft has put some of its services on Android and iOS, but creating their own platform on inexpensive Android devices could be a recipe for success in emerging markets looking for Android's compatibility with numerous apps combined with Microsoft's own productivity apps.
If Nokia and Microsoft are serious about releasing Normandy, we'll probably hear more about it at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Image via @evleaksES/Twitter