The Microsoft Launcher Challenge (Premium)

The ability to completely customize the entire experience is one of the key strengths of the Android platform. And while I tend to prefer "stock" user interfaces over third-party replacements, Microsoft's decades of platforms experience makes its Android launcher---called, yes, Microsoft Launcher---particularly interesting. Especially to those, like me, who spend their days in front of a Windows PC.

I've been writing about Microsoft Launcher since it was first released as Arrow Launcher back in October 2015. And I've watched as this incredible solution has evolved from a Microsoft Garage project---with the inherent uncertainty of such projects---into a fully-supported Microsoft produce that is now central to the software giant's cross-platform integration plans.

That's important. And on a number of levels.

As you must know---it's pretty much the Microsoft story of the decade---Microsoft doesn't have its own mobile platform, making it impossible to continue the "One Windows" strategy it originally envisioned for Windows 10. So the firm finds itself in the odd position of having to support others mobile platforms---Android and iOS---as much as is possible. Microsoft must go where its customers are.

This is easier on Android than it is on iOS: Apple locks down its platform in ways that make it impossible to have a complete "Microsoft experience" on iPhones and iPads. You can install apps to access Microsoft services, for sure. And you can replace the iPhone virtual keyboard with Microsoft's SwiftKey. But that's about it.

Thanks to Android's malleability, however, Microsoft is able to provide a much more complete experience, a process I call "Redmondizing your smartphone. And the Microsoft Launcher is central to those efforts.

While Microsoft Launcher's importance to Microsoft is easily understood, the question before us is whether it makes sense to replace the stock user interface on your phone.

I go back and forth on this one myself---as noted, I do tend to prefer stock UIs---but then it's not hard to test these things. You can install any number of launchers on your Android handset and move between them as you like. In doing so, you may find features and functionality that you never knew you wanted. Or you may simply prefer to move back to the stock launcher. The nice thing is, you have the choice.

So this week, I'm going to write about my experiences moving to Microsoft Launcher. I've used this launcher many times in the past, but it's changed so much even just recently that a fresh look is necessary. The goal? To see whether Microsoft's unique approach to the mobile user experience is preferable to Google's. And whether the Windows 10 desktop integration pieces are valuable too.


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