Nokia was working on an Android phone before Microsoft buyout deal

In February of 2011, Microsoft and Nokia announced a joint strategic partnership that would see Windows Phone become the principal platform strategy for Nokia’s mobile devices. And the Finnish giant took quite a bit of heat for putting all of its eggs in Microsoft’s basket.

But according to a new report, the company had a plan b: an Android device. Sources familiar with the project say that a team within Nokia had Android up and running on its Lumia handsets “well before” it began buyout negotiations with Microsoft for its mobile phone business…

Nick Wingfield of The New York Times has the scoop:

“Before Microsoft reached a deal to buy Nokia’s phone business, there was a possibility that Nokia could have switched its smartphones to Google’s Android operating system sometime after late 2014.

And now, it is clear that a Nokia Android phone was more than a possibility. It was real. A team within Nokia had Android up and running on the company’s Lumia handsets well before Microsoft and Nokia began negotiating Microsoft’s $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia’s mobile phone and services business, according to two people briefed on the effort who declined to be identified because the project was confidential. “

Essentially, Nokia was working on an Android device (or multiple devices) in case it decided to flex its option to exit its Microsoft partnership at the end of 2014. Wingfield says that Microsoft executives were aware of the project, but it didn’t have any bearing on buyout negotiations.

So what’s the status of Nokia’s Android phone now? It’s unclear how far along it is, but considering that Microsoft just announced that it’s laying down more than $7 billion for Nokia’s mobile phone and services business, it doesn’t sound like it’s ever going to see the light of day.

Interestingly enough, it looks like while Nokia was experimenting with Android, Microsoft was experimenting with building its own phone. The Verge reports that the company had a secret ‘Surface Phone’ project, headed by Xbox lead Terry Myerson, and several prototypes were built.

While I think it would have been interesting to see both a Nokia-branded Android handset, and a Microsoft-built Surface phone come to market, I have to agree with John Gruber here. How much time and resources did the two companies lose by not marrying together much sooner?

What do you think, would a Nokia Android device have done better than its Windows Phone-based Lumias?