Well, that sure didn’t take long. The bizarre Nokia X, technically built on an underlying layer of Android code but really made to resemble a Windows Phone on the software front without actually running WP, is merely four months old. Five, if we count the timing of its formal introduction rather than the commercial launch.
Meanwhile, the slightly beefier but just as experimental X2, powered by a Nokia X platform 2.0 UI which might as well be called Windroid, is yet to be released. Both handhelds, plus the first-generation X+ and XL that are even bigger flops than the X, have an impending expiration date as of yesterday.
Essentially, they’re dead in the water, although Microsoft insists it’ll continue to “sell and support existing Nokia products”. Newsflash, Redmond, you already abandoned the X “support”-wise when announcing there’ll be no OTA update to X platform 2.0.
So cut the act. You’re killing off these poor little silly hybrids effective immediately, and that’s final. But how did we get here? Why? And should we even care?
Nokia X demise – death by obsoletion or “humane” execution?
Before getting into the whole “why” debate, and explore the sins that sent the X on the brink of extinction, let’s further probe the “how” part of the equation. As in, how will Microsoft exit the Android market?
Now, it’s not yet clear if MS Exec VP of Devices & Services and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was trying to be elegant and diplomatic about the family’s prospects, but he did point out in his “email to employees” that “select future Nokia X designs and products” will be shifted to “Windows Phone devices”. Erm, what? I’m no linguistics expert, but that must be the most convoluted, confusing phrase in the history of the written word.
Here’s what I think will happen. Scenario #1: MS treats the X as a bad dream it just woke up from, and chooses to never speak of the project. In which case the “shift” to Windows Phone simply means the resources so far wasted used on the X are transferred to low-end Lumias. This would be the obsoletion scheme.
Scenario #2: Microsoft wipes off any faint trace of Google code on existing Nokia X phones, and updates them over-the-air to Windows Phone. Sounds ludicrous? Maybe, but it’s not like the “X platform” is so much different from WP 8.
Nokia X future – hanging by a thread
Let’s say Elop, Satya Nadella & co. take the second route detailed above. Will we then see X2 heirs based on subsequent Windows Phone builds out the box? Let’s say they phase out current X models gradually. Will X branding stick around to bolster Microsoft’s efforts at the “lowest price ranges”?
Well, if you give Elop’s letter a thorough read, you may find some possible answers. For instance, the exec hints at a sort of resource restraint, planning “to run our phones business for maximum efficiency with a smaller team”.
Also, he says, “we plan to drive Windows Phone volume by targeting the more affordable smartphone segments, which are the fastest growing segments of the market, with Lumia”. With Lumia. So yeah, it sounds like bye-bye, X.
But here’s a wild idea. What if the X series was to endure not as a Lumia little helper, but cheap alternative? Cheap-er, yeah, as in a sort of advanced Asha sub with Windows Phone. Not so wild after all, huh?
Nokia X gets the axe – deservedly so?
I’m sure you noticed by now I’m doing everything possible to avoid that part of the “why” discussion. You know, the “what was Nokia thinking when it set off on this risky fishing expedition in uncharted Android territory”? Was Microsoft against it from day one? Is that precisely why Nokia insisted with it, to show MS it had a conscience of its own… at that point?
Truth is I haven’t the slightest idea. For all I know, MS was behind the X debacle right off the bat, and carefully planned its failure, to once and for all silence Windows Phone detractors in general and Android fans in particular. See, they’d say, we tried it your way, ventured into Android land, but no one wanted to buy our gear. Now shut up and purchase a Lumia 530.
It’s a possibility, admit it, but at the end of the day, I think it’s more relevant for the big picture to tackle Nokia X’s market performance. Which between you and me, wasn’t that bad… for a device that was probably never meant to succeed.
Numerous reports suggested the first-gen 4 incher was big in Asia, and other underdeveloped, emerging markets may have followed suit with the right marketing tools. Besides, the X2 looked a lot better on paper, so there’s no reason to assume it would have done worse at the box-office. Bottom line, maybe the X line deserved a little extra time. Maybe that’s why Microsoft pulled the plug so abruptly, fearing, yes, fearing the “Android-based” family could become successful.
Of course, most of my rambling is speculation and guesswork, so don’t read too much into it. We’ll likely never know the logic behind either the initial X release or the experimental program’s so sudden cancelation. All we know is the X, in one form or another, is finished. So long, brave little soldier in the Android army. We hardly knew ye.