Should Microsoft ditch Windows Mobile and embrace Android?
Android is the world's most used mobile OS, and Microsoft is the world's premiere software and platform company. To some, that sounds like a match made in heaven.
This is especially true when you consider that Microsoft's current Windows-on-phone OS, Windows 10 Mobile, is fairing just as poorly as its predecessors. Like Pocket PC, Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone, Windows 10 Mobile has failed to deliver Microsoft's products and services to the mobile masses.
The ideal position for a company that hopes to be represented in the mobile space is that it has a market-accepted mobile platform, integrated first-party products and services, and a robust third-party supported ecosystem. Microsoft only has the second of the three. Even with that, scorned fans will be quick to point out that many first-party Microsoft products, like Office Sway, make it to iOS and Android but never come to Windows phone.
Given the state of Windows Mobile and Microsoft's cross-platform commitments, many Microsoft watchers believe that Microsoft should abandon its Windows-on-phone vision and use Android instead. Some would even argue that Microsoft is showing signs of doing just that. Are they right?
Microsoft is leeching royally off of Android
Despite the competitive challenges it brings to the table, Android has been good for Microsoft. The company collects royalties from various Android OEMs due to a patent licensing agreement.
The estimated billions of dollars in yearly revenue these royalties add to Microsoft's bottom line (though dwarfed by Microsoft's core business revenue) are certainly a motivation for Microsoft to hope for Android's continued success. Though, perhaps not to the extent that that success is detrimental to Microsoft's personal computing goals.
Additional revenue isn't the only benefit Android provides Microsoft. According to Microsoft's Chief Experience Officer Julie Larson-Green, "Android is a great platform for rapid experimentation." The platform's openness and the vast number of users make it ideal for testing new features.
Thus, Microsoft's investments in garage apps such as its Next Lock Screen (opens in new tab) and Arrow Launcher (opens in new tab) for Android are not end goals in themselves.
The depth to which Microsoft can access the Android OS (compared to the limits of iOS) allows the company to create useful Android apps, which also provide opportunities for tremendous feedback for features that later make it to Microsoft's core products. Larson-Green explained:
This explains Microsoft's Android focus on garage apps. But what of Microsoft's other decisions that some interpret as suggestive of the company's progression toward Android?
Concerned Windows phone enthusiasts needn't look far to find evidence that Microsoft is testing the Android waters. Shifts in UI design of Window Mobile from the bold, sweeping, cascading text we fell in love with, to hamburger menus and an Android-esque aesthetic signal that Microsoft is slowly abandoning its unique mobile vision.
The explanation that Microsoft was hoping to appeal to Android developers by making Windows phone UI elements more consistent with Android apps didn't satisfy some critics of the decision, especially since Android developers never took advantage of the shift.
Microsoft's Windows 10 Companion app may also be interpreted by some as the company's lack of faith in its mobile platform. The app helps smartphone users download Microsoft apps to their smartphones with the hope of integrating those users more deeply into Microsoft's ecosystem.
This investment coupled with the often-criticized strategy of exclusively bringing apps to iOS and Android can be seen as Microsoft hedging its bets in case Windows Mobile fails.
If Windows phone fails, Microsoft's phone companion app may herald Microsoft's plan B
Best on Windows?
Some would argue that if this is not the case, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's promise of a "best on Windows Microsoft experience" would dictate a prioritizing of Microsoft apps on Windows.
The growing number of Microsoft apps in the Google Play Store (opens in new tab) (and App Store), while Microsoft fails to bring its own apps to the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) causes many to question the company's priorities.
The integration of Android with Windows 10 services such as Cortana and notifications also suggests to some that Microsoft may be preparing to abandon Windows Mobile.
Cyanogen, Microsoft cozying up with Android
Microsoft had a partnership with Cyanogen (which, after a major shakeup is now Lineage, a U.S.-based company that produced Android-based firmware for mobile devices.
This partnership, which saw the bundling of Microsoft apps and integration of Microsoft services in the Android-based Cyanogen OS, also suggests to some that the company was testing how well Microsoft products and services might integrate with Android. Former Cyanogen CEO Kirt McMaster was excited about bringing "new kinds of integrated services to mobile users in markets around the world."
Microsoft passed on financially investing in Cyanogen, and as Lineage it's no longer the company that entered into a partnership with Microsoft. Despite these shifts, Microsoft gleaned valuable data from the relationship. Deep OS-level integration of products and services like Cortana within the Cyanogen OS undoubtedly helped Redmond to, at least in part, bring a non-Google, Android-based vision of a Microsoft-focused mobile OS, reminiscent of the Nokia X, into view.
"Microsoft's" Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung's Galaxy S8 is a beautiful phone, and Windows Central hasn't been shy about acknowledging its appeal. Microsoft, which is offering a Microsoft version of this Android-based phone in its retail stores, where Windows-based phones are ironically absent, also recognizes the phone's consumer appeal.
This arrangement may appear to be a sure sign that Microsoft is abandoning its mobile platform for Android. Microsoft's long play, however, even if its mobile platform was a success, would likely entail imbuing competing platforms with its products and services.
The controversial positioning of an Android device in a Microsoft Store is harder to defend. But that too could be envisioned as a strategy.
Let's not forget, however, that in 2015 Samsung and Microsoft ended a court dispute over Android royalties the Korean-based company was obligated to pay Microsoft. The full terms of the outcome of that case were never disclosed. Perhaps, this Microsoft version of the S8, with a prime spot in the physical store, is part of what resulted from that case. Then again, the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus Android phone is being sold through the Chinese Microsoft Store.
Some might deduce that Microsoft's foray into Android with garage apps and Cyanogen, and its prioritization of cross-platform investments above Windows, suggest that the company is using the S8 and Mi 5s Plus to set the stage for an eventual Microsoft branded Android smartphone in the Microsoft Store. But I doubt it.
Few companies have the resources to fork Android, Microsoft is one of them
"Forking Android" is when an OEM uses the free Android Open Source Project (AOSP) code to run devices with a Google-less Android OS. Simply put, when an OEM chooses not to use Google's version of Android, official access to the Google Play Store and the suite of popular Google apps and services are not part of the package.
Without those value-adding products and services, which have become almost synonymous with "Android," the Google-enriched version is not the Android you get. It is more of a no-frills version in need of a range of products, services and an app store.
Companies like China-based Xiaomi and online retailer Amazon used vast resources to succeed with a Google-less version of Android. Microsoft, with its broad range of software and virtual product-for-product alternatives to Google's range of first-party offerings, is arguably well-positioned to fork Android, as well.
Through persistent cross-platform offerings of its products and services, Microsoft has potentially positioned itself to be a "first-party" developer of a homegrown Android platform. Additionally, with Microsoft Garage and other original apps, the company has indisputably proven that it can create compelling new apps specifically geared for Android that also integrate with Microsoft's other services. (Arrow Launcher's Office 365 integration is an example.)
Forking Android can get complicated
One challenge Microsoft would face if it switched from Windows Mobile to Android is another blow to its tenuous relationship with developers. Some developers have suffered through a series of breaks in OS continuity over the years as Windows Mobile evolved toward OneCore.
Developers don't love Windows. Can Microsoft mend the relationship?
Microsoft has been promoting OneCore, the UWP and writing code once for all form factors for two years. If Microsoft made an about face and embraced Android, it would likely lose all credibility with developers and many others in the industry who believe in Microsoft's UWP vision.
A Microsoft-branded Android smartphone, though capable of integrating with the Windows ecosystem, would cut the mobile component of UWP out of the picture. This can't be Microsoft's plan.
Maintaining multiple apps
For those developers who may embrace Microsoft's Android, challenges remain. For instance, a developer who buys into Microsoft's platform will have likely also embraced Google's version. Here's the problem: Some apps tie into certain services, like Google Maps, to work. A developer may find that his Google app requires an update but that the same app on Microsoft's platform does not (or vice versa), because of an update to Google Maps (or another service).
Thus, in some situations, a developer may feel like he is maintaining an app on two different platforms.
What's in Store?
A switch to Android would severely impact the already poorly supported Windows Store. Some angry developers would undoubtedly abandon the platform (and Store) outright. Furthermore, Microsoft would have to build an Android Store to serve mobile, while the current Store continues to serve full Windows. After all of the work that has and is going into unifying the Store, I don't envision Microsoft making a move that would damage the infrastructure, logistics and goodwill those efforts established.
Finally, OEMs that currently build Google-powered Android phones can't embrace building a non-Google Android phone without Google cutting that OEM's access to the Play Store and Google services. Most OEMs would likely stick with the Android services they and their customers know, rather than risking a loss by gambling on Microsoft's version of Android.
So should Microsoft fork Android?
Despite what some may interpret as indications that Microsoft is moving to Android, I contend that it is not, nor should it.
Clearly, a devastated UWP, further damaged developer relations, a chaotic Windows-Android Store duality, and poor OEM support strongly suggest that Microsoft forking Android is a bad idea. I see Microsoft pursuing full Windows-on-mobile on an ARM-based ultimate mobile device.
But that's just my opinion. What's yours?
I also wrote:
Why Android is a serious problem for Microsoft
No, Windows phone isn't dead and it may never die
What Android and iPhone users need to know about Windows phone
Developers don't love Windows. Can Microsoft mend the relationship?
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Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!
I'm sick of this non proactive BS. Have some balls MS. Screw Apple, screw Google, and screw the current set of lazy developers... And, screw us fans as well... Do it for MS, and nobody else. Have some self pride, and most of all be confident..... Your slip is hanging, MS.
Windows 10 was even more exciting as it seemed incomplete without windows mobile which indirectly ensured Microsoft's commitment to windows mobile.
Yes there is an app gap and recently it hasn't been as good as can be recently and android has been becoming more efficient.
However, I feel this is a point where we need to support Microsoft even more to return windows mobile to it's prior glory rather than give in to OS' like android or iOS!!
Microsoft have not said Windows Mobile is gone.
They've indicated that insider programme is taking a back seat for now.
It stand to reason that the insider programme can never be sustainable. They cannot beta test the OS forever, at some stage they'll have to return to the 3 year release cycle.
This realisation will naturally start with their 'smaller' product offering.
I read up until the galaxy 8 part.
The thing you need to remember is that any publicity is good publicity.
If WC continue in this relentless androidification if this site, the better for android.
I'll admit Zac is doing it more... And this may be one of your rare articles.
If Microsoft research were to do an analysis of WM brand value and came to this site with the hope of finding their users... This would not be helpful as I suspect like most people (as you say) there'd read the headline.
A Microsoft-branded Android smartphone, though capable of integrating with the Windows ecosystem, would cut the mobile component of UWP out of the picture. This can't be Microsoft's plan. MAINTAINING MULTIPLE APPS For those developers who may embrace Microsoft's Android, challenges remain. For instance, a developer who buys into Microsoft's platform will have likely also embraced Google's version. Here's the problem: Some apps tie into certain services, like Google Maps, to work. A developer may find that his Google app requires an update but that the same app on Microsoft's platform does not (or vice versa), because of an update to Google Maps (or another service).
Thus, in some situations, a developer may feel like he is maintaining an app on two different platforms. WHAT'S IN STORE? A switch to Android would severely impact the already poorly supported Windows Store. Some angry developers would undoubtedly abandon the platform (and Store) outright. Furthermore, Microsoft would have to build an Android Store to serve mobile, while the current Store continues to serve full Windows. After all of the work that has and is going into unifying the Store, I don't envision Microsoft making a move that would damage the infrastructure, logistics and goodwill those efforts established. OBLIGATED OEMS Finally, OEMs that currently build Google-powered Android phones can't embrace building a non-Google Android phone without Google cutting that OEM's access to the Play Store and Google services. Most OEMs would likely stick with the Android services they and their customers know, rather than risking a loss by gambling on Microsoft's version of Android. SO SHOULD MICROSOFT FORK ANDROID? Despite what some may interpret as indications that Microsoft is moving to Android, I contend that it is not, nor should it. Clearly, a devastated UWP, further damaged developer relations, a chaotic Windows-Android Store duality, and poor OEM support strongly suggest that Microsoft forking Android is a bad idea. I see Microsoft pursuing full Windows-on-mobile on an ARM-based ultimate mobile device."
On the issue of Microsoft damaging already invested infrastructure...
This is MS we talking about.
Windows Media Center, kinect, Lumia etc, comes to mind...
They can and we hope for the best.
No no limit, won't give up the fight...
A Microsoft-branded Android smartphone, though capable of integrating with the Windows ecosystem, would cut the mobile component of UWP out of the picture. This can't be Microsoft's plan."
If true what you say, you still get the point.
In South Africa no one drinks Pepsi.
Pepsi have left and returned to market almost as many times as Microsoft's Mobile ambition.
The only difference is Pepsi doesn't taste good under the African sun.
But Windows Phone only has Nadella to blame.
If you mean appearance, Android is by far the most themable phone OS around today.
I liked the fact that WP phone was different and functionally useable for most Mobile needs, thus I didn't much care about the "app gap".
Still love my 950XL, just bought another one, but if MS abandoned the mobile, I would miss it but survive
But that's just my opinion. What's yours?" I hope you take the time to read the piece.😉
MS should care more about developers, like androids developers , they are tons .
In this case. Only this case , windows phone mobile , will smash the whole market.. Ended
With that said, we as a society need a dramatic change in what we value as important. Right now the dollar (or your local currency) is king. We need to move away from that mindset, fast. Or we are in a world of hurt in the next 5-10 years. Automation and cloud will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs. We are in no way as a society prepared for what is about to happen. IMO, we are screwed. Like Post Man/Waterworld/Mad Max/Escape from New York screwed. Screwed.
But hey, use your words to prove me wrong or help me see your side. What has he done in the current corporate landscape, that has set his company up for failure? (Again though, I don't think society as a whole is prepared for what is about to come.)
Edit: Simple example. I commented this elsewhere in this thread. Let's say for argument that Satya did go all in. Best hardware, software and marketing. Kick a** commercials, common consumer says "Oh, i want that". Drive to store the next day. Checks it out, loves it, goes home to set up. Goes to download Snapchat. "wait, what? It's not there?" then drives to the store later to return it. That does more harm to MS than If the customer never purchased in the first place. Only thing worse than not selling phone, selling phones that get returned. Is it sad that a handful of apps have the ability to kill a platform. Heck yes that is sad. But that is also reality.
Oh and, I still rock a 950XL as my daily. I will not leave the platform. Once there is a premium smaller tablet with cellular, I am moving on from phones.
The new Paint 3D app makes creating models easier than ever [MICROSOFT] Microsoft revealed its latest financial results earlier this week, with company CFO Amy Hood mentioning "negligible revenue from phones." The reality was even more stark, however, with phone sales falling $730 million for the current quarter from the same period last year.The announcement may not be too surprising, given the waning power of Windows Phone devices around the world. Microsoft did not even publish the results of its mobile devices division in its last financial results, with no new devices being released as the company finalised its messy divorce with Nokia. Windows Phone now makes up just 0.3 per cent of all smartphones sold across the world in the last three months of last year, according to recent Gartner figures. GETTY The news means no more new Microsoft Lumia Windows Phone devices The ascension of Satya Nadella as Microsoft CEO effectively spelled the end for Windows Phone, as he looked to take the company more towards cloud computing. The company has also been resizing its Windows Phone workforce in recent years, with tens of thousands of employees being laid off back in July 2015. Microsoft also effectively wrote off $7.6 billion concerning its 2013 takeover of Nokia, marking one of the company’s biggest ever low points. The company also recently downgraded work on its Windows 10 Mobile platform in favour of focusing on building other new hardware instead.
The news won’t affect Microsoft’s mobile software rollout, as the company recently revealed more details about the rollout of its most advanced mobile software. The company finally began rolling out Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update earlier this week, marking the latest generation of its smartphone platform. However only a certain number of devices are able to download and install the software, including several Lumia smartphones such as the Lumia 640 and 640XL, Lumia 650, and Lumia 950 and 950 XL devices. The mobile version of Windows 10 Creators Update is available to download now. The download brings a number of mobile-specific features, including better ebook support for reading on the go, a new “Snooze” function for Microsoft Edge tabs, and a smoother way to many Wi-Fi connections on your device. There’s also support for full-colour, updated emojis, better Bluetooth connectivity, and improvements to Cortana that allow you to use your voice to control playback and volume of your music.
Bring UWP to Android (and possibly to iOS)! I know there are probably lots of technical challenges but still i guess that could bring life to UWP (run apps on windows, windows mobile and android!). THIS should be the ultimate goal of a true UNIVERSAL app platform. If there is a company out there that is capable of achieving this it only can be Microsoft. looking forward to hearing something about mobile at build :)
I think the Microsoft S8 is a good way to test the waters.
The single biggest reason Windows Phone failed is GOOGLE. Their absolute refusal to allow any of their native apps to work on WP hamstrung the platform permanently. Yes, some 3rd party apps filled the gaps, but the general public did not know about them and most of the time they were feature-limited and they wanted; YouTube, GMail, Hangouts, GDrive, GoogleDocs, etc. and they could not get them.
The only reason Google is able to offer those on the iPhone is they PAY Apple several Billion $$$ a year for the "priviledge" of appearing on the App Store and being "allowed" to run on iOS.
MS offered Google mucho $$$ to "allow" their apps on WP and Google refused. Thus, WP was permanently a 3rd-class phone.
Android is a fractured, hot-mess with lots of different versions and very VERY rapid obsolescence built in the way Google does business. It would be suicide to adopt your biggest competitor's OS.
Won't ever happen.
MS will continue to develop APPS for Android, but run the OS? That would be cutting their own throat.
If Microsoft is dumping them for their money-making-only-policy, I wish they didn't buyout Nokia-Lumia killing it while making money with windows phone users and now giving them all big finger like goodbye, why ?
Microsoft must respond and payback every windows phone buyer with Nokia and Microsoft, for such dirty business acts !!!
"You play Mobile Strike on your phone? That's cute. I play World of Warcraft on my phone." IMHO that's where MS needs to put the whole focus.
That or make some new high end Windows 10 phones on Verizon but I feel the first option is more likely 😁
They should just focus on making "win10 + arm + sim support", make Surface Mobile a reality.
I'll get onboard if it allows me to XPA my gamers. I'm already doing it with my Alienware / Surface Pro 4 but, a 5 inch tablet to dock on my controller? Why not?
Congratulations to Microsoft as
nearly every article I read about WM10 states that it is an amazing OS , is just that it has the apps issue . If Microsoft would spend what is needed to close the app gap ( plus improve the existing apps) and do marketing for the OS , it would stop WM10 sales decline and certainly gain them a few points of market share .