Microsoft is navigating a high risk transition for its low end smartphones and feature phones in coming weeks. In winding down its relationship with Finnish tech veteran Nokia, Microsoft will close the Nokia Store (aka the "Ovi App Store") and kill the Symbian Xpress browser, replacing them with the Opera Mini browser and Opera Mobile Store from Norway's Opera.
When the mobile browsing deal with Opera was announced last year, it was initially unclear that Opera would also be stepping in to provide app store support to Microsoft's low-end devices. But with Nokia making a comeback in the device market with the Nokia N1 Android tablet, Microsoft faced substantial pressure to distance itself from the straying partner whose devices unit it acquired for $7.2B USD.
It appears Microsoft is moving aggressively to purge the Nokia brand name and legacy from its device lineup, even on the low end. While it will continue to use Symbian on its low-end devices for now, it's already killed off the Nokia X and Asha family (the latter of which is replaced by the new "Microsoft First" brand). It is also in the process of rebranding "Nokia Lumia" smartphones as "Microsoft Lumia" phones.
It appears that Microsoft will initially allow users to choose whether to upgrade from Xpress to Opera Mini, although it will urge them to do so. But in "late 2015" it will drop support for Xpress and force the holdouts (ostensibly) to switch. It writes in a faq on the transition:
In August 2014, we announced that Xpress Browser would be replaced by Opera Mini on classic Nokia phones, including those based on Series 40, Series 30+ and Asha. In early 2015, people who use Xpress Browser on these devices will be prompted to upgrade to Opera Mini.
The schedule for these prompts depends on which device you use. You will be asked to update your browser to Opera Mini in a few simple clicks, or you can choose to continue using Xpress Browser until the next set of reminders.
We highly encourage people to upgrade to Opera Mini for their Series 40, Series 30+ or Asha device when prompted. Nokia Xpress Browser will be discontinued in late 2015.
It's already removed the browser from the app store, a move which was made on Jan. 15.
In a separate post on the app store transition, it writes:
Opera Mobile Store replaces Nokia Store as the app store for Series 40, Series 60, Symbian, Asha, and Nokia X family phones.
- The Opera Mobile Store has thousands of games and apps, both free and paid, for Series 40, Series 60, Symbian, Asha, and Nokia X family phones.
- When you tap the Nokia Store icon on your phone, on a Series 40, Asha, and Series 60 phone you are redirected to the Opera Store mobile website. On a Nokia X family phone you are asked to download the new Opera Store app, which replaces Nokia Store on your phone.
- Apps purchased from Nokia Store continue to work after the transition, but apps that have been paid for are not available to re-download.
- For more info, go to http://apps.opera.com
By the sound of it at least some of the apps from Nokia Store/Ovi Store have been ported to the new Opera Mobile Store.