Nokia appears to be seriously considering launching smart phones that don't run its own Symbian or MeeGo software, as comments from CEO Stephen Elop sparked rumours about an Android or Windows Phone 7 tie-up.
Before we get on to the wild speculation, here's what Elop actually said, in yesterday's conference call with investors after Nokia revealed its latest financial results: "We must build, catalyse or join a competitive ecosystem. The ecosystem approach we select must be comprehensive and cover a wide range of utilities and services that customers expect today and anticipate in the future."
It's the "join" that has set tongues wagging in the mobile industry, since until now Nokia has always said Symbian and MeeGo are the smart-phone horses it's backing against competition from the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. Now it seems there's a chance Nokia may ditch that policy, partly in an attempt to start selling some smart phones in the US.
On to the speculation. There are two obvious choices for Nokia if it decides to try a new operating system on for size: Android and Windows Phone 7. Elop joined Nokia from Microsoft last year, so linking up with his old mates might seem the obvious deal. Microsoft is pretty rigorous about how WP7 works on smart phones, however, and there wouldn't be much scope for Nokia to put its stamp on a device in this way.
Well, much less scope than Android, anyway. Google is famously hands-off when it comes to phone makers and operators customising their Android handsets, from their user interfaces through to the services and apps that are preloaded on them. A Nokia Android handset could come with the Ovi Store (obviously selling Android apps rather than Symbian ones), and the company's other services, including music and maps.
Yesterday, Elop pointed to Nokia's upcoming 'Strategy Update' on 11 February as the time the company will reveal more of its future plans. That event comes just before the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona. If Nokia is going to make an Android smart phone, that would be as good a time as any to give it the big reveal. Watch this space...