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Nokia chose Windows Phone because it feared Samsung would 'come to dominate Android'

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Lumia 720 stock
Lumia 720 stock

Nokia's decision in 2011 to pin the future of its smartphone business on Windows Phone has been heavily scrutinized over the years, but the reasoning behind that choice is only becoming fully clear now. When asked last week if he regretted not choosing Android, CEO Stephen Elop told reporters that he's "very happy with the decision we made." He added, according to The Guardian, that "What we were worried about a couple of years ago was the very high risk that one hardware manufacturer could come to dominate Android." At the time, Nokia "had a suspicion of who it might be, because of the resources available, the vertical integration." That company, of course, is Samsung.

Elop continued, "Now fast forward to today and examine the Android ecosystem, and there's a lot of good devices from many different companies, but one company has essentially now become the dominant player." What concerned Nokia about becoming an Android manufacturer, then, was that it wouldn't be able to scale up quick enough to compete with incumbents — particularly Samsung — which, at that time, already had a bit of a foothold in the market. As Elop said last week, "we were respectful of the fact that we were quite late in making that decision. Many others were in that space already."

"What we were worried about... was the very high risk that one hardware manufacturer could come to dominate Android."

The company also saw an opportunity to market itself as an alternative to Apple and Samsung. Elop told reporters that Nokia can more easily negotiate with carriers — which hold the keys to many markets like the US — as they want to talk "with different people and keep pressure on everybody and have the best range of options, [they want] that third alternative." He added, "So strategically we have an opening with AT&T and every other operator in the world... because we've taken that path as the third ecosystem."

The decision, then, can be seen as Nokia accepting that it should aim for third place. And considering Nokia's special deal with Microsoft — which includes $250 million in quarterly platform payments for a limited time — the choice was a bit easier. Looking at the decision in this light, Nokia may have done well for itself. In the past quarter the company sold more Lumias than BlackBerry sold phones, solidifying its spot in third place. Its fears of a Samsung-dominated Android market have come true, and competitors like HTC have struggled to keep up with the Korean company. Nevertheless, Nokia still has a long way to go: it lost €115 million (roughly $151 million) last quarter.