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This article was published on July 20, 2010

Nokia’s Choice Is Dead Obvious: Go Android

Nokia’s Choice Is Dead Obvious: Go Android
Chad Catacchio
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Chad Catacchio

Chad Catacchio is a contributor writing on a variety of topics in tech. He has held management positions at a number of tech companies in th Chad Catacchio is a contributor writing on a variety of topics in tech. He has held management positions at a number of tech companies in the US and China. Check out his personal blog to connect with him or follow him on Twitter (if you dare).

If indeed Nokia is interviewing for a new CEO, it should hire the candidate who tells the mobile giant this:

“I don’t want the job unless Nokia is going with Android.”

The reaction today about the CEO hunt has been most one of “about time”, with investors saying that Nokia has to poach someone from Apple, Palm, Google or Microsoft (heaven help them if they go with the latter). Nokia is a enormous company that can’t be run like a startup, but at this point it’s a company that has a startup’s decision to make: change or die (probably a slow death in Nokia’s case).

Hardware comes from OS

Nokia is losing market share left and right and to be honest it’s not because they make horrible hardware – the N8 for example looks very nice. Nokia’s hardware could certainly be a little more modern (they rely too much on keyboards for one), but Nokia has always has a flare for design and if its hardware designers had a powerful OS to work off of, they could probably package a good looking and powerful line of phones.

That OS has to be Android.

The real competition isn’t Apple

Lots of people are focusing around how Apple has totally eclipsed Nokia, and some are even saying that they need to differentiate from RIM. We bet, however, that the companies that Nokia is really looking are HTC and Motorola, which have taken Android and run with it, the former coming out of relative nowhere, the latter giving itself a chance to survive and perhaps thrive again (sound familiar?)

Nokia always looks at things from a global perspective, so the rise of HTC and re-kickstart of Motorola – both of which have good brand recognition in Asia for example – mainly because they went with Android hopefully has gotten through to at least some of their executives and board members. Yes, Nokia has been putting lots into MeeGo, which we said earlier this month actually looks promising, but the reality is that Android continues to pull away from every mobile OS except for iOS.

Complex partnership options

Maybe Nokia doesn’t want to be in a strategic partnership with Google, for whatever reason. The companies have competing mapping systems as one example where they compete, and aligning themselves in the same way as HTC has with Google might be too much. That said, what’s the other options? Apple certainly isn’t one. Perhaps they could work something out with HP with WebOS, which truth be told is a strong OS that just became the third man out. But why go with the third man out (or the fourth in MeeGo) when for no licensing fees you can just use Android, which is clearly on the rise?

Of course, Nokia could also do what HTC, LG and Samsung are doing in offer multiple OS options (hard to believe Nokia will drop Symbian on its low end phones anyway), including building custom skins over Android (though Android 3.0 might limit any need for this if it’s as good as some predict).

What it would take

So what would it take for Nokia to bring Android to it’s top tier phones? Well, they’d have to appease Intel about MeeGo for one – perhaps they could just use MeeGo for other devices (it is supposed to be a platform for all devices anyway). Also, they would have to look into the actual savings cost of building on Android, and how that would help Nokia’s margins. Finally, as we said above, this may only be something that a new CEO can make happen as a condition for the job. It sounds pretty radical, but if someone wants to really go into Nokia and turn things around, radical steps and attitude are going to be required.

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