Is Android the future of Microsoft?

In today's open source roundup: Will Microsoft become an Android company? Plus: Is there too much Ubuntu hate? And find out what's in version 14.04 of Ubuntu's spins

Windows Phone can only be described as a nearly complete failure for Microsoft. ZDNet thinks that Microsoft could dump Windows Phone and morph into one of the top Android companies. But is this a real possibility for a company with the control freak history of Microsoft?

Add it all up: If Microsoft gives MS-Android devices a serious push, they can make more money per phone then their competitors. The boys from Redmond will also riding the most popular mobile operating system to market for far less money than they've been investing in their own failed mobile operating system.

Besides, unlike every other major player in the market, except for Amazon with its Kindle Fire tablets, the Windows giant has a unique selling point: Microsoft applications and the cloud services that back them. Last, but never least when it comes to selling smartphones, Microsoft has the potential to immediately quintuple the number of applications for their new Android-based platform over its lagging Windows Phone devices.

More at ZDNet
Microsoft Might Become Android Company
Image credit: ZDNet

What a terrible mark of desperation for Microsoft that we're even discussing the possibility of them becoming an Android company. Who would have thought we'd see them in this kind of situation back in the 90s when the company was on top of the world? My oh my, how the mighty have fallen!

The article lists some good reasons why a Microsoft version of Android would benefit the company. But I'm forced to question whether or not this is a realistic possibility for Microsoft. The company has a history of wanting control over software platforms, it seems highly unlikely to me that Microsoft will ever be able to dump the "Windows first" mentality it has had all these years.

True, Microsoft has a new CEO now and it's possible that he might be able to lead the company in a new direction. But only time will tell on that, it's impossible to know if he'll really have the power or even the inclination to put Microsoft on a different path. We're going to have to wait and see.

Let's look at each reason in the ZDNet article and knock them around to see if it really makes sense for Microsoft to embrace Android.

1. Microsoft already makes major profits from Android

The article notes that Microsoft makes money from Android patents, and it's a significant amount of money. But Microsoft would still make that money even if it never released an Android phone, so I'm not sure how that figures into the rationale of them embracing Android as their own mobile operating system.

Maybe I missed something here?

2. Android already owns the market

It's true that Android has the greatest market share, but the company that makes the most profits is not Google or Samsung or any other Android phone manufacturer. It's Apple. Yep, Apple apparently soaked up around 87% of the profits in the smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2013.

So market share is certainly not everything, profit share seems to matter much more to a company's bottom line. And the company that makes the most from Android is Samsung, not Google. How does Microsoft propose to rend Android profits from Samsung? My money would be on Samsung in a head to head match with Microsoft.

Microsoft could certainly enter the market for Android phones, but it's quite likely that any Android phone they release could become just another also-ran in a vast sea of Android phones. How many Android users would even care about a Microsoft Android phone? How many would even notice? Probably not a lot.

3. MS-Android has unique advantages over its competitors

The big selling point here is that Microsoft's software services (Outlook, OneDrive, Office 365, etc.) would somehow add a lot of value to an Android phone. I suppose the attraction of these products would depend on the user.

But if a user really wants to use Microsoft's services then wouldn't he or she already own a Windows phone? If the allure of Microsoft's services is so powerful then market share for Windows Phone should be a lot bigger than it already is but that's simply not the case.

4. Lower development costs

The article cites development costs of around $100 million dollars for Windows phone, and notes that Microsoft would save money with Android. But that amount of money is chump change for Microsoft, and some would argue that spending it is a necessity if Microsoft is to ever control it's mobile destiny.

Saving a few bucks in the short term and making yourself utterly dependent on Google doesn't seem like a smart idea to me. I can't image development costs really entering into Microsoft's decision to go with Android over Windows Phone.

5. More apps, more developers

Yes, it's true that Android has a lot more apps right now than Windows Phone. But wouldn't it just make more sense for Microsoft to let Android apps run on Windows Phone instead of using Android as its mobile operating system? That would at least let Windows Phone continue to exist and possibly advance.

Also, it seems to me that focusing solely on the number of apps is not necessarily a good idea. Quality may matter over the long haul more than just quantity. What good is having a million apps in your app store if a lot of them are of poor quality?

In the end I think it's very doubtful that Microsoft would ever become an Android company. It's just not in the company's DNA to give up control to another company, the Windows-first mentality is still highly engrained in the mindset of Microsoft.

Don't hold your breath for Microsoft to dump Windows Phone in favor of Android anytime soon.

1 2 Page 1