A story by The Information caused the Microsoft blogging sphere to start fluttering recently. It is spinning wild by the idea that Microsoft was toying with the idea of Windows Phone and Android installed in the same handset, granting users the ability to choose between the two, or perhaps dual boot each at separate times.
WPCentral wrote a fine piece digging into what The Information uncovered if you would like a peek at the details without running nose-first into a paywall.
Why might Microsoft have wanted to pursue the strategy? Aside from the obvious placement onto more handsets — and thus, in theory, more app downloads for Windows Phone developers — it is hard to parse why Microsoft would even contemplate the effort.
Mary Jo Foley, among the best Microsoft watchers, was blunt in her incredulity:
Is there anyone out there — phone user, developer, OEM — that sees something I’m missing? Is there some reason this dual-boot Android-Windows Phone OS idea makes sense on any level? I’m all ears….
Yes. In fact, the only thing that I can summon to mind is that Microsoft was desperate. You don’t lash your platform onto another that does the precise same things — and some things better, it has to be said — if you are confident in your own platform’s ability to exist on its own.
Happily, what The Information uncovered — I haven’t managed to confirm their work independently, but parts of it jibe with logic — more than just a Hail Marry attempt to jump onto Android’s momentum to bolster Windows Phone. Other efforts include firmware updates, new advertising efforts, sub-$100 handsets, and so forth. The sort of things that you expected, in other words.
All the above is viewable from a post-Nokia context, of course, in which Microsoft owns two of the three commanding heights of its smartphone platform: hardware, and software, even if Carrier Support remains, for obvious reasons, outside of its control.
I think that Windows Phone sans Microsoft’s control of Nokia hardware business would have been open to more platform flexibility. However, now for Microsoft, every advantage it grants to other OEMs as enticement to build and sell Windows Phone handsets is a direct undercut to its own efforts. So, Microsoft’s best bet to help Windows Phone and itself at the same time is to ensure that Lumia handsets — those devices being of essentially now past Nokia vintage — sell at increasing volume.
Shoving Windows Phone haphazardly into Android hardware to give consumers an odd choice perhaps at the corporate expense of OEM royalties for IP protection just doesn’t shift water in that reality.
What we should take from the above I think is actually simple: Microsoft remains utterly committed to Windows Phone, and is willing to pursue any avenue that it can to ensure the success of the platform. The Android gambit was a desperate thought, but you have to give the company points for outside-the-platform thinking.
When Nokia reports earnings and device volume figures for the holiday quarter, we’ll have a pretty clear look at the health of Windows Phone, a platform that is growing abroad and struggling at home, though the third-party data at the moment is somewhat mixed. Just don’t expect to see Windows Phone and Android sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.
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