Microsoft + Android: It’s Time

Posted on April 12, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Dev with 122 Comments

Microsoft + Android: It's Time

I’ve long felt that Microsoft should sell its own Android handsets, replacing the Lumia lineup with devices that customers actually want. But there’s one crucial missing piece. And that piece could be revealed as soon as next month, at Build 2017.

Two years ago, right before Microsoft officially surrendered the mobile market to Android and iOS and began its full-scale evacuation from mobile handsets, I openly wondered whether Android was what I then called “Microsoft’s Plan B in mobile.”

At that time, however, Windows phone hadn’t yet been flushed down the toilet. So the focus then, as I saw it, was that Microsoft was releasing a ton of apps on Android and partnering with device makers that licensing its patents in return for bundling those apps.

Also at that time, I knew that Microsoft was working to get Android apps running on Windows phone. That effort was so successful, it was actually deemed too successful, in that it obviated the need for the Windows phone apps platform. Which, at that time, Microsoft was consolidating as UWP across all Windows 10 platforms, including the PC. So that effort was killed.

But I was on to something back then that I think is even more important today, in Microsoft’s post-Windows phone world.

“When Microsoft first started talking up the notion of universal apps that would run across its various platforms—Windows, Windows phone, Xbox One, Internet of Things embedded devices, Surface Hub, and HoloLens—I opined that truly ‘universal’ apps would in fact also run on competing devices as well,” I wrote at the time. “I figured this would mean Android primarily, since that platform is open and Microsoft has already started building support for Android into Visual Studio … Letting universal apps run on Android would open up the market to Windows-focused developers and let them leverage their existing skills and knowledge. It makes sense. And I still expect to see this happen, if not in the current generation of universal apps, then in the future.”

I still expect to see this happen. If not in the current generation of universal apps, then in the future.

Exactly.

This is that final piece. Bringing Android further into the Microsoft developer story/apps platform. But among the many things that have changed since 2015 is that Xamarin is now part of that developer story. And I’m wondering how or if that changes UWP, if at all.

Not that it matters: The real aim here—and the reason Microsoft should announce this at Build 2017—is to let developers leverage their existing skills and experiences. That is, anyone who has focused on UWP for whatever reason will be able to open up their wares to a huge new potential market of billions of Android users. That doesn’t just make up for Windows phone. It’s like Christmas. In May.

And by announcing its own phones, Microsoft could throw a lifeline to Windows phone holdouts too. Such a product line wouldn’t need to be enormously successful to, well, succeed, since Microsoft, like any other Android phone maker, could simply take advantage of the many manufacturers that already serve this market. It could simply design the devices, customize the software to be like Windows, and ship them.

It’s a win-win. Microsoft could get back into the mobile market at little risk. Developers would have a much bigger market to target. And Windows phone fans would have upgrades to consider.

There’s no time like the present. It’s time for Microsoft to end the charade and officially adopt Android in a meaningful way. In doing so, it will provide a way forward for us all.

 

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