As we've also argued here, it's not just about the hardware, it's about a whole ecosystem, of apps and environment. That's what Apple and Samsung get, and that's what Nokia saw as well.
Both companies [Samsung and Apple] get what Elop said two years ago, what I’ve been saying for even longer, that it is the ecosystem what matters the most. Not just the device. Not just the platform (the built-in software, including the OS and apps). But the entire ecosystem. Both Samsung and Apple have done an amazing job of pushing their respective ecosystems forward, and in the case of Samsung, that company has really differentiated its products from “stock Android” and the other Android-based competitors.
This is exactly what Nokia has done with Windows Phone. And I’ve been writing a lot about that in recent weeks, about how the firm’s unique apps, services, hardware accessories, and other benefits (camera optics, for example) really put its devices and the entire ecosystem—what we might think of as Windows Phone+, that is, Windows Phone plus the unique Nokia bits—over the top.
Now you could argue that Nokia could have done all of this on top of Android, but the practical realities of business made Windows Phone a more attractive choice: Nokia are the leading Windows Phone player, with some four out of five WP handsets coming from the Finnish company; they have a direct influence on the platform's direction; and while they could have worked on a Nokia Android skin, it would have been starting from scratch and spending their time and energy fighting companies like LG, Sony, and ZTE.
By going with Windows Phone they gained favoured partner status, they insulated themselves from the competition, and they could focus on internal matters alongside the development of handsets such as the Lumia 920.
So I'm Thurrott on this one - it's a nice game of what if, but it's unlikely Nokia would be in a significantly better position today if it had went with Android instead of Windows Phone.
Thurrott's discussion can be found on his blog.