Microsoft’s Android line evolves — new Nokia X2 handset has Opera as default browser

Here’s a fun game. Mentally rewind 5 years and see how likely the following sentence would have been: Microsoft(s msft) has decided to make Opera the default browser on its new, Linux-based Android handsets.

Yes, it seems the Nokia X series is a serious project after all, and Microsoft is expanding the line to include a new €99 ($135) Nokia X2 handset with more midrange specifications than the original low-end Nokia X – 4.3-inch screen, 1GB of RAM and a 5-megapixel camera. The new Android(s goog) handset includes a bunch of Microsoft services like Outlook, Skype and OneDrive, but of course there’s no Internet Explorer for Android.

Hence the inclusion of Opera as the default browser on the X2, a decision that makes perfect sense as the X series is mostly destined for emerging markets and Opera’s data-compressing, money-saving Turbo feature is designed for the same.

Opera will also be the default browser on other X-series handsets rolling off the production line from now on. It was already available on the first-generation Nokia X but not as the default – that was the Nokia Xpress browser, which also compresses data but which is no longer part of or available for Nokia X Software Platform 2.0, the new iteration of Nokia’s Android fork.

“We’re preserving the Xpress browser for the Asha family and other [Series 40] phones,” Microsoft spokeswoman Ana Mangahas told me on Tuesday, explaining that this was a matter of choosing “the best browser for the right job. People using Asha are very familiar with the Xpress browser. Once you get to this category, you get a lot of people who are already familiar with the Opera browser in many parts of the world.”

I’m reminded of the days when manufacturers such as Sony(s sne) Ericsson(s eric) (RIP) and HTC would preinstall earlier versions of Opera as the default browser on their Windows Mobile (RIP) handsets, no doubt to Microsoft’s annoyance — now it’s Microsoft itself making that call. I’m also reminded of the days when the severely anti-Linux Microsoft was taking illegal measures to suppress upstart browser rivals like Opera on the desktop. Times have changed quite dramatically since then!