By Rich W Woods
Recently, we came up with the idea to start a new section on For the Love of Tech called “What If…” The idea is that we all love tech – hence the title For the Love of Tech – and we all love to imagine the possibilities of it. It’s a tech version of a comic book fan’s “What if Superman raced the Flash?” Of course we all know The Flash would win in a foot race. The idea was that it would spark discussions and mostly to just have fun and geek out. The first What If was What if…Blackberry made Windows Phones? And now, What if…Microsoft used Android for phones and tablets?
It wasn’t that long ago that this What If… was close to a reality. Nokia made a line of forked Android phones – the Nokia X – that ran Microsoft services. There was a rumor that due to the low market share of Windows Phone, Microsoft would adopt that forked brand on Android.
What if Microsoft Used Android?
Microsoft owns Nokia now, so the idea of Nokia going off on their own to work with Android is off the table. Microsoft would either have to go all in on Android or they could test out both Android and Windows Phone side by side.
Microsoft couldn’t use Google Play
If Microsoft decided to start using Android, Google Android would never happen. It would be impossible to see the Google Play Store on a Microsoft branded device. This is for the same reason that Amazon had to fork Android for the Fire devices. You can’t have Amazon Instant Video side by side with Google Play Movies in the same way that you can’t have Google side by side with Bing and you can’t have Xbox Music side by side with Google Play Music. There are too many services that run parallel to each other.
Another reason that they would never use Google Play is because of how anti-competitive Google is when it comes to Microsoft. Google has done everything they could to keep Microsoft from developing a decent YouTube app for Windows Phone and they haven’t made a single app aside from the Google search app for Windows Phone.
One issue is that Microsoft has put a lot of work into the Windows Phone operating system. They have over 100,000 apps in the Windows Phone Store now and a whopping 12 apps for Android. Chances are that Microsoft would end up using Amazon apps on the Microsoft version of Android. After all, Amazon licensed their app store to Blackberry. It makes sense that they would license it to Microsoft as well.
Microsoft would be Relying on Google Support
Even though Android is open source, there is no guarantee that it will be open source forever. it seems as though Google is getting closer and closer to not supporting the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) anymore.
In a lot of ways, Google seems to have an embrace and suffocate strategy to doing business. Just look at Google Reader. Many apps used Google Reader as their backbone and once everyone relied on it, Google simply killed it. There is no reason to believe that they wouldn’t use the embrace and suffocate method with Microsoft using Android.
Let’s say that Microsoft effectively kills Windows Phone and Windows RT and adopts a forked version of Android. Just like with Amazon devices, any Android developer can simply port his app over to Microsoft’s platform as long as it doesn’t use and Google services in the app. Two years down the line, let’s say Google doesn’t support open source with Android 6.0 Popsicle. App developers start developing for Google’s Android and it doesn’t work on Android 5.3 Orange Creamsicle. At this point, Microsoft is up the stream without a paddle.
What if Microsoft Used Android Side by Side with Windows Phone?
We know Windows RT is dead in the water. With Windows 10, we know that whatever Windows Phone will be will be the same OS that is used on ARM tablets.
So let’s say that Microsoft didn’t jump in with both feet. After all, since Windows Phone 8 was announced in September 2012, Nokia has released the Nokia Lumia 520, 521, 525, 530, 620, 625, 630, 635, 720, 730, 735, 810, 820, 822, 830, 920, 925, 928, 930, 1020, 1320, 1520, X, X+, XL, and X2. They have no problems with making devices that don’t look alike or work the same way.
So now you have Windows Phone and Android running parallel, most likely on the same hardware because they would logically want to give each platform its proper shot. Windows Phone will still have the same 100,000 apps and the Android fork will most likely have the 240,000 apps that come with the Amazon App Store.
Assuming that they both run on the same hardware, a user would be a fool to buy the Windows Phone. After all, it is likely that this Android fork would look and feel exactly like Windows Phone would, except it would have better apps. Windows Phone would wither and die and Google would have completed the “embrace” portion of “embrace and suffocate”.
What if Microsoft Used Android: Conclusion
We discussed two different scenarios here: one was where Microsoft dropped Windows Phone in favor of Android and the other was where Microsoft used Android in parallel to Windows Phone. Both of them ended the same way, with Google ending support for AOSP and effectively killing Microsoft’s mobile strategy.
There is another solution that Microsoft could use. They could port Amazon’s app store – or at least their own Android app store – over to Windows Phone. Android apps are written in Java and Java is a language that was designed to be completely cross-platform.
The reason that Java is cross-platform is because it is designed differently form other programming languages. In a language such as C#, a programmer writes his code in Visual Studio and it is compiled into machine language so it can run on Windows.
Java is compiled into a different kind of machine code. Since you install the Java Runtime Environment to run Java apps, the Java Runtime Environment translate the machine code of the Java app into the machine code of the machine that it is running on. This is why Java tends to be a slower language than others. All that Microsoft would need to run Android apps on Windows Phone is a specialized Java Runtime Environment that runs Android phones.