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Nokia and RIM said to be considering Android

Jan 28, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop hinted at a possible switch to Android in the course of announcing a 21 percent year-to-year drop in net earnings in the fourth quarter, and In-Stat projected Android will eclipse Symbian worldwide by 2015. Meanwhile, Research in Motion is rumored to be considering implementing a Dalvik virtual machine on BlackBerry devices to enable Android compatibility.

With Symbian continuing to gradually decline in global smartphone market share, Nokia is once again rumored to be switching operating systems. A Wall Street Journal story reported that in the course of announcing Nokia's disappointing earnings on Jan. 27, new CEO Stephen Elop hinted at a possible shift to Android.

Elop addressed "Nokia's need to change rapidly in a fast-changing market place, and to consider 'multiple ecosystem patterns'," according to the Journal's Gustav Sandstrom. Investors "interpreted the comments as a sign that Nokia might be preparing to adopt a new smartphone platform," the story says, adding that the general consensus among investors was that the platform in question was Android.

The statements appeared to inspire confidence in the investors, who traded up Nokia stocks despite a 21 percent year-to-year drop in earnings in the fourth quarter. Nokia's net 4Q profit was 745 million euros ($1.02 billion), down from a 950 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2009. Nokia's 12.6 billion euros ($17.2 billion) in 4Q sales, however, represented a six percent increase from 4Q 2009.

According to Nokia, its estimated vendor handset market share shrunk to 31 percent in the quarter, down from 35 percent a year earlier.

Is Nokia giving up on MeeGo?

A year ago at this time, Nokia was rumored to be considering a switch to Android or Windows 7, but then it seemed to have made its decisive move at Mobile World Congress in February when it announced a joint project with Intel to develop an open source, Linux-based MeeGo operating system. MeeGo would span a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and automotive infotainment devices. 

Yet, MeeGo has been slow to develop, specially on the smartphone side, at least in comparison with the Google-fueled Android. Nokia's N900 phone (pictured), can now be loaded with the fledgling MeeGo 1.1, but the phone is still sold with the Linux-based Maemo (which, along with Nokia's Qt cross-platform development framework and Intel's Moblin, forms the basis for MeeGo). Meanwhile, other commercial MeeGo phones have yet to be announced.

Nokia's Elop was previously president of Microsoft's Business division, so Windows Phone 7 is still a possibility. However, Microsoft has also had tough sledding in a market dominated by Apple, RIM, and increasingly, Android. In fact, in a Jan. 27 post, PCMag's John Dvorak went so far as to say that the platform is "dead in the water", and suggested that Microsoft should spin its own Linux-based alternative or even embrace Android as well.

Of course, Elop's comments may have been misinterpreted. It could be Nokia simply intends to double-down on MeeGo and accelerate product development on the platform. This was implied in Nokia's third quarter earnings report, when Elop announced that the Finnish phone giant would focus on the Qt framework for both its MeeGo and Symbian mobile operating systems instead of using older Symbian development platforms.

In-Stat: Symbian slipping, but slowly

A Jan. 25 smartphone research study from In-Stat predicts that Android's worldwide smartphone share will eclipse Symbian by 2015, when it projects that total smartphone shipments will reach 850 million units.

Yet, In-Stat also says, "The demise of Symbian has been greatly overstated. On a global basis, annual unit shipments of Symbian-based handsets will continue to grow, resulting in Symbian having the second highest unit shipments of all the smartphone OSs."

According to In-Stat, in addition to more established players, MeeGo, HP's WebOS, and Samsung's Bada will all still be active contestants in the smartphone market in 2015.

Will RIM go Dalvik, support Android on BlackBerry?

Apple and Research in Motion (RIM) are not in the habit of sharing their mobile OSes with other vendors, so they have largely been left out of the Nokia speculation. Yet RIM, too, has felt the bite of growing Android smartphone sales, and according to one report, may consider adding Android compatibility to its BlackBerry phones to keep its loyal customers loyal.

As reported by BoyGeniusReport on Jan. 26, multiple sources have informed it that "RIM is very much considering the Dalvik virtual machine, and we ultimately expect the company to choose Dalvik." The tipsters also told the site that the goal was to offer Android compatibility on its QNX-based BlackBerry devices.

The site added that the company has publicly stated it is looking into implementing a Java virtual machine on its new PlayBook tablet, and suggested it is likely to be considering adding one to its BlackBerry phones.

Since the Dalvik Java virtual machine, which sits atop Android's Linux kernel, is an essential component in running Android applications, adding Dalvik should it much easier for RIM to support Android apps.

In August, Oracle sued Google for illegal use by Android of the Dalvik virtual machine. Android includes Java applications running on a Java-based application framework and core libraries that run on a Dalvik virtual machine.

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