Can Microsoft switch from Windows Phone to Android?
Taking existing Android and building on top of it, or ‘forking’ it, is exactly the option that Microsoft has when it comes to Android. There are plenty of reasons in favor of a Microsoft fork of Android, a Microsoft/Nokia Kindle of sorts, and probably as many or more against, but we can sum up the argument down to this: Windows Phone has not been capable of attracting sufficient sales to break the Android/iOS monopoly and create a true ‘three-horse’ race, so that's why an Android smartphone by Nokia (or Microsoft) would leverage a much larger app and developer ecosystem. Finally, since parts of Android are open source, it's not risking too much.
On the flip side of things, it would be an admission of failure of the Windows Phone platform, something that we doubt Microsoft would be willing to do despite the sales situation. Also, it would require some effort and a cloud back-end infrastructure. Let’s be theoretical for a minute and try to step in both Microsoft’s and Google’s shoes to see what it would take for a Microsoft ‘Droid’ to become a reality.
The one argument in favor of a Microsoft ‘Droid’: market share
analysts like the Microsoft-focused Paul Thurott and the AdDuplex network estimate the total platform user base at around 50 million. In stark contrast, Android has an estimated total installed user base of some 1.9 billion, while iOS and Mac combined have around 680 million, so while Microsoft is indeed the third-largest platform, it is so far behind Android and iOS that we cannot seriously consider it a ‘three-horse’ race just yet.
Even worse, the latest statistics show that Windows Phone grows to be more and more dependent on a single phone maker - Nokia. Windows Phone devices by the Finnish company account for more than 90% of all Windows Phone sales. We are all hoping that Microsoft will announce new partners soon, but the reality of the situation at the moment is that its platform has not been met with enthusiasm by phone makers other than Nokia, and the huge sales are not there to give more people reason to buy in.
Additionally, statistics also show that the dynamics of Windows Phone are actually moving down, with diminishing interest in Windows Phone smartphones, and low sales for the platform’s top-shelf smartphones like the Nokia Lumia 1020. What happens instead is that low-end devices like the Lumia 520 that bring low profitability for phone makers are growing their relevant share of the Windows Phone market. That cannot be a good thing for the manufacturer’s revenue sheets.
All in all, the first 'app argument' in favor of an Android-based Microsoft/Nokia could be the strongest, as the Windows Phone ecosystem seems to have been ‘too little, too late’.
Why Android: because of open source, or because of developers, developers, developers?
Google continues updating the AOSP
With over 1 billion applications in its catalog, and a strong developer ecosystem, Android can provide Microsoft with a base that it’s currently missing with Windows Phone. Moreover, Android has largely maintained the principle of providing a level playing field for third-party manufacturers, so that it has the APIs and all other needed tools for Microsoft services. And a quick look at Microsoft’s revenue sheet will tell you in perfect clarity that services like Office are the exact reason why Microsoft wants to be on mobile.
It’s important to note that Android’s openness allowed even starting this discussion about a Microsoft ‘Droid’. Google started with the Android Open Source Project (AOSP)’s huge codebase launched in the early days of Android around October 2008, and has been updating it since then. AOSP is basically the bread and butter of Android, something that a third-party phone maker can virtually take and slap on a device, and have a fully functioning smartphone. It has literally all that’s needed - the launcher, the dialer, phone and contacts apps, the calendar, camera, gallery and so on.
It’s also equally important to make it clear that while the AOSP provides the backbone of Android, it does not include things like Google’s excellent suite of applications including the Google Play Store, Maps, Drive, Gmail, Chrome and so on. All of that is packaged in a separate entity that’s often called Google Mobile Service (GMS), or Google Play services. GMS - unlike AOSP - is proprietary, and has been so from the start, designed to provide access to Google’s cloud services on top of Android. Making use of it is something that requires a paid validation that is rumored to vary in cost, but average at around $0.75 per device.
One key feature of the GMS is that it cannot be divided, you cannot have just a part of it - it is a buy-all, get-all solution. In practical terms, this translates into the fact that all GMS Android phones have not just say Google Play on them, but also the full suite of Google apps.
Here is where the big question for Microsoft appears. If - purely theoretically - the company was to build an Android fork, would it want one that is based on AOSP only or one with AOSP and with GMS?
Or like Samsung?
Building the custom apps seems to be the lesser effort, though, especially for a company the size and expertise of Microsoft. We also ought to mention that a lot of the core apps are available as part of the AOSP already. Chromium is available as an open-source base for everyone to build upon, and in cases where the apps (like the music player) are not well maintained, there are plenty of developers with powerful solutions that can be licensed.
This way, a Microsoft ‘Droid’ would be able to leverage the Android ecosystem fully, but still deliver a unique experience, and most importantly, become a window to Microsoft’s strong cloud services. This has also been done before, and still is - it’s what Samsung is doing to Android, where it keeps the Google core apps, but also offers a competing Samsung app store with competing Samsung applications. Samsung’s explosive growth has been a testament to the viability of such an approach, but we should admit that the business model of Samsung and Microsoft are considerably different.
Will it happen?
We have already seen that companies like Amazon and Samsung have successfully forked Android, and done so in different ways. The big question, however, remains whether Microsoft will actually do such a fundamental change and depart from its Windows Phone platform.
Quite clearly, a Microsoft-made Android device would be a business decision, and sure enough, it will require significant amounts of time and effort. We are not saying in any way that it would be the wiser decision, what we have tried to expose here is whether or not it is possible, and whether or not it’s a viable prospect. To us, it seems like the answer is yes. What do you think?
reference: The Guardian, Ars Technica, Dianne Hackborn
1. boblight (Posts: 77; Member since: 28 Jul 2012)
And then let the floodgates of fan-wars begin.....
7. akki20892 (Posts: 3248; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)
Wp getting mature, right now not too mature enough but we have to wait Few years. I'm gonna use android for few years then whenever wp get fully mature I'm going to buy Nokia.
15. SleepingOz (unregistered)
Or may be nokia will switch to Android by then. Best of both world, for you at least.
20. Skoms (Posts: 118; Member since: 03 Feb 2014)
What is the point of WP, if Android is superior??
Android has the more features this i open system that can get the operating system to look like you want.
Microsoft would surely be able to make a WP launcher for Android that would outclass their own OS
60. Liveitup (Posts: 872; Member since: 07 Jan 2014)
Microsoft going with Android would be a major mistake
1) There is nothing stopping Microsoft from offering their services on iOS and Android at present, and Microsoft does not have to give up Windows Phone to offer Android versions of Bing, Outlook and Xbox Music (and in fact already does). Its a false dichotomy.
2) The App Gap issue is being rapidly solved. While Windows Phone is only 10% of iOS and 5% of the Android installed base, its 50 million users present a viable market for developers who want that extra 10% of sales for minimal effort. This situation will just improve in time, making it a weak reason to give up on Windows Phone. In addition running AOSP will no more get users those missing Google apps journalists always complain about than running Windows Phone, and the same goes for many high profile Android apps, who do not want to support a fork of Android.
3) Being app compatible with Android is not a recipe for success. One merely have to look at Blackberry 10’s lack of success, or even more convincingly HTC, Sony, LG and everyone else except Samsung. Simply running Android does not magically confer market acceptance, in fact it largely seems a marketing budget issue.
4) With Google being in charge of development they could easily introduce breaking changes in the code and licensing of Android which could mean future versions of Android would be inaccessible to Microsoft. Being dependent on a competitor that is clearly out to kill you seems a rather bad idea.
5) There are advantages to running your own platform, like security and deeper customizability, and being able to control your own roadmap and pace of development, which Microsoft would not have if it went all Android.
In short going Android would not make Microsoft much different from Amazon with its forked version of Android, which while doing well is not exactly setting the world on fire or grabbing large amount of market share with their tablet products.
Instead of adopting Android, Nadella should work at bringing up the installed base of Windows Phone to 200 million as rapidly as possible, at which point the app problem will solve itself and while offering Microsoft’s services on other platforms continue to give users on other platforms reasons to switch to Windows Phone.
Android is not a superior platform to Windows Phone I think it is the opposite, being open does not make you better in fact being open has more than its share of disadvantages, maybe some Android fanboys are to blind to see but Android is becoming Flat and simplier, that's WP.
Anyone who truly knows technology and not just look at what they see at the surface would tell you WP is the best OS out there look at how much Android and its OEM's, iOS and other are mimicking the WP experience.
WP grew from 13.2 million in 2012 to over 30 million last year making it the fastest growing OS worldwide.
WP had a minor dip last quarter but so did Samsung and other Android OEM's.
65. networkdood (Posts: 6247; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)
Microsoft does a poor job maintaining their apps on Android - see Halo Waypoint and XBOX smartglass. Android allows flexibility - windows did at one time, too. WP is not the best OS - ask any IT guy - the OS is littered with security issues - the old joke still applies that WS OS is like swiss cheese. Still, having options for their customers is not a bad thing. Speaking of fanboys, you are truly a Windows fanboy. Their new Win 8 phones intrigue me. But therir PCs? I cannot wait to dump mine - I sick of windows explorer - and I wish I could fully delete Internet explorer - worst browser in existence.
73. NokiaFTW (Posts: 1697; Member since: 24 Oct 2012)
35 million WP8 + 15 million WP7/7.5/7.8 = 50 million WP users worldwide, which is no small number. :)
61. Liveitup (Posts: 872; Member since: 07 Jan 2014)
Additionally, IPhone and Note 3 was released last quarter yet WP still manage to put up impressive numbers, to me that is a win, I have no doubt that some will love to see WP demise not because the product is not great but because it is, they hate to see future Android competition and that is the truth no matter how they dress it up.
Think about it, how popular was WP a couple years ago compared to now, now WP is getting major attention and growing marketshare , where do you think it will be in two years from now and two after that etc at the pace its maturing, WP will be a major treat to Android in the future especially when Satya give it away for free to OEm's because suddenly it because more expensive to create an Android device than it would a Windows Phone, the reason being that it cost more to license WP than it is for OEM's to pay Microsoft for patents currently, however the moment WP because free it is suddenly more expensive to create an Android device than a WP for OEM's cause even though the Android OS itself is free paying Microsoft Patent fees to use its tech in their Android devices will continue to cost them tens of Millions while WP will cost them nothing.
62. Liveitup (Posts: 872; Member since: 07 Jan 2014)
In the last paragraph the two final " because" words should should be "becomes", writing on small screen, mistakes tends to happen.
58. akki20892 (Posts: 3248; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)
That be great if they make android phone like my profile picture.
21. alterecho (Posts: 1054; Member since: 23 Feb 2012)
WP isn't getting mature.
Proof: Look at the graph of Windows Phone marketshare - 2010 (launch year) to 2013.
That there, is a near straight line. As straight as an airport runway.
25. Skoms (Posts: 118; Member since: 03 Feb 2014)
I have both Android and WP, Android is constantly evolving and is long before Wp, Through Android launchers with WP8 theme has more features than regular WP8.
Then I do not understand why Microsoft can not release an Android launcher, then they would get assets an Android sized Eco system.
And they would sell phones. Now they sell just because it's Nokia and it is hardly
35. SleepingOz (unregistered)
Never gonna happen. The one that should make Android devices is nokia. MS is a software company, they sell software.
37. Skoms (Posts: 118; Member since: 03 Feb 2014)
It would make people themselves could choose!
But it seems that Microsoft does not want you to have a few choices,
it may be because that Wp ecosystem is a disaster?
39. sgodsell (Posts: 893; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)
Yet they bought Nokia phone division, and make their own tablets as well. So is this why Microsoft is paying other OEMS to make WP devices for them. You just have to look at the previous quarter alone. Nokia sold 8.2 million lumias and in the previous quarter 8.9 million lumias were sold. During the holiday season they sold 700,000 fewer lumias. Everyone knows that they sell over 90% of all WP devices. In the same holiday quarter 55 million iphones sold, and Android sold over 220 million phones. The sales numbers tell the truth.
59. akki20892 (Posts: 3248; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)
Nokia launching Normandy. Because they knew it let's give little change to Nokia with android. If it's sold more then I damn sure they will start making high end android phones.
50. cdgoin (Posts: 363; Member since: 28 Jul 2010)
Actually if they forked Android under a Metro UI, MOST people wouldn't even notice.. It would simply be another droid phone with a cool GUI on top. I don't care what core is running my smart phone as long as it works like WP and I can use google play on it to run my TV. Heck WP makes money now on Android licensing.. so they could offer discounts to Samsung, etc.. to use the Windows Flavor of GUI over Googles chrome. Beat Google at its own game. Then replace Windows RT with the same OS.. as Chrome and droid can already run on top of Win8.1 it could work to their advantage.
2. Finalflash (Posts: 1437; Member since: 23 Jul 2013)
Not going to happen, between pride and stupidity, there is just no chance. Firstly they have started their vendetta against Google for a while now and even joined hands with Apple to bring down Android. That effort plus the fact that they want to have total software and hardware control like Apple to make mad money means they won't go Android.
3. pradeepreddy (Posts: 35; Member since: 01 Apr 2013)
why do you guys always write articles about what will happen if they switch to ANDROID,
like it's a miracle medicine for EVERYTHING!!!
4. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1115; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)
They can, but they won't. It will be worse if they do.
And 1G apps? Did you mean 1M?
13. xperiaDROID (Posts: 5047; Member since: 08 Mar 2013)
1 giliion apps? There's no such word. 1 apps per gallon? Hell yea.
16. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1115; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)
1 giga apps ;)
"With over 1 billion applications on its catalog"
29. lalalaman (Posts: 279; Member since: 19 Aug 2013)
Doesn't giga is refered to money? ??....well what ever...1 apps per gallon was hilarious
5. NokiaFTW (Posts: 1697; Member since: 24 Oct 2012)
MS could adopt Android & skin in with tiles. However, that'll be the end of them seeing my money in their pile of cash. And I wanna request all fellow WP users & fans on the site to ignore and not react to any hate or trolls towards WP & MS and keep this article clean and hate-free. :)
19. xperiaDROID (Posts: 5047; Member since: 08 Mar 2013)
Everyone in PA should know that trolls just want attention, the more you reply to them, the more they troll. We should know that "Don't argue with the trolls, they just won't listen.".
22. Skoms (Posts: 118; Member since: 03 Feb 2014)
Microsoft would surely be able to make a WP launcher for Android that would outclass their own OS.
27. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1115; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)
No they "would surely" not. They can. But it's not worth it. Far too many bugs and lags on most Androids. And there are features exclusive to WP that WP users like.
36. Skoms (Posts: 118; Member since: 03 Feb 2014)
You're wrong 925 has more bugs and laggs
than my SONY Z1 ANDROID
38. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1115; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)
Your Z1 must be magical, then. It's running on Android 4.3 I can list a lot of bugs for you, so don't think there'd be less bugs than on 925.
66. networkdood (Posts: 6247; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)
Nexus 5 - zero lag - I even get 2-3 days of battery life per charge now with normal use...
81. XperiaFanZone (Posts: 1115; Member since: 21 Sep 2012)
Same for my nexus. They're one of few phones with no noticeable lags.
43. rodneyej1 (Posts: 3208; Member since: 06 Jul 2013)
All I can honestly say about this BS is.... LMFAOWROTFWTRDMFE!!!!!!
PA's credibility is low because of this kind of crap.... Anyone who is even contemplating believing this crap has got to be smoking some space age dope.. Wow!!!!!
6. xperiaDROID (Posts: 5047; Member since: 08 Mar 2013)
No, it won't happen. I don't wish to see it happen, Microsoft can stay on their own Windows Phone platform cause an Android device from Microsoft is just not right. What I want to see is that Microsoft and Google improve their relationships, this will help Windows Phone a lot, and one of those things is an official Youtube app, yay! No more Scroogled or Microd*cked.
So overall, an Android device from Microsoft is just not right, a Nokia Android device is the right choice, I hope Nokia will make a high end Android device but that won't happen until 2016. Oh, how about reviving Symbian? Well, it looks like we'll have to wait until 2016 for Nokia's comeback.
Don't get me wrong, I don't hate Windows Phone. I'm looking forward to the Lumia 1820 as well.
9. kindlefireowner (Posts: 332; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)
Where is the can Apple make an Android phone article?
45. rodneyej1 (Posts: 3208; Member since: 06 Jul 2013)
Lmfao... That's just as about as feasible..
11. sergiobr (Posts: 392; Member since: 25 Feb 2013)
Everybody wants to rules the world ! Android will remain Android and so on ...
12. Nikolas.Oliver (banned) (Posts: 1574; Member since: 01 Jul 2012)
Immediately as i saw this article i thought it was written by Michael H, turned out it wasn't, huh.
14. NokiaFTW (Posts: 1697; Member since: 24 Oct 2012)
The following is copied directly from WMPoweruser.com on why MS shouldn't adopt Android, which I agree on big time.
1) There is nothing stopping Microsoft from offering their services on iOS and Android at present, and Microsoft does not have to give up Windows Phone to offer Android versions of Bing, Outlook and Xbox Music (and in fact already does). Its a false dichotomy. 2) The App Gap issue is being rapidly solved. While Windows Phone is only 10% of iOS and 5% of the Android installed base, its 50 million users present a viable market for developers who want that extra 10% of sales for minimal effort. This situation will just improve in time, making it a weak reason to give up on Windows Phone. In addition running AOSP will no more get users those missing Google apps journalists always complain about than running Windows Phone, and the same goes for many high profile Android apps, who do not want to support a fork of Android. 3) Being app compatible with Android is not a recipe for success. One merely have to look at Blackberry 10’s lack of success, or even more convincingly HTC, Sony, LG and everyone else except Samsung. Simply running Android does not magically confer market acceptance, in fact it largely seems a marketing budget issue. 4) With Google being in charge of development they could easily introduce breaking changes in the code and licensing of Android which could mean future versions of Android would be inaccessible to Microsoft. Being dependent on a competitor that is clearly out to kill you seems a rather bad idea. 5) There are advantages to running your own platform, like security and deeper customizability, and being able to control your own roadmap and pace of development, which Microsoft would not have if it went all Android. In short going Android would not make Microsoft much different from Amazon with its forked version of Android, which while doing well is not exactly setting the world on fire or grabbing large amount of market share with their tablet products.
28. Skoms (Posts: 118; Member since: 03 Feb 2014)
Nokia could of course try to release a phone with ANDROID then we will see how it sells.
I think it would save Nokia from micrrosoft
17. N-fanboy (Posts: 528; Member since: 12 Jan 2013)
I'm sure the brand new forked android (if it does exist) will be will be way better (and mature) than WP which is like 4 years old. As someone who has bought a wp device just for the sake of the 'Nokia' hardware, using it was the worst experiance i've ever had on a phone, and i've used A LOT of phones.
23. Skoms (Posts: 118; Member since: 03 Feb 2014)
nokia is nowadays made by microsoft foxcon in China !!!
24. SleepingOz (unregistered)
I can understand your pain. I used to be like you; supported and believed in nokia regardless of the direction they were heading til the N8, which was really terrible. But then I got tired of being biased and wasting my money on subpar products. So I switched to what was acclaimed by both public and critics at that time and I couldn't be more happy.
55. wolfsaviorzx (unregistered)
Windows Phone is more smooth than Android. Android is more customizable though but the main reason I won't use IOS or Windows Phone is it takes your freedom away. You have to "Jailbreak" it just to get the same freedom of using "Unlicensed Apps" on Windows Proper or Android. All Microsoft would have to do is allow me to install my own apps on Windows Phone and I'd buy one. Freedom always wins out for me.
67. networkdood (Posts: 6247; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)
lol - I laugh at your last statement - Apple and Microsoft represent anything but freedom...
18. axllebeer (Posts: 265; Member since: 05 Apr 2011)
Ok, can it happen, yes. Will it, F no. In all honesty, I'd rather see BlackBerry and Microsoft team up and see a few Nokia phones running BlackBerry 10. Hate me for it if you must, but that's more likely than Android. Too much defeat they would be admitting.
( did you hear Yoda's voice while you read that?)
At least if they partnered with BlackBerry it would be viewed as 2 underdogs teaming up to battle the other mighty 2 with ambition for a solid 3rd place, and not what we see today.
26. lalalaman (Posts: 279; Member since: 19 Aug 2013)
Good...made me happy=) this is the real truth.....there is no point of going back and choosing android at this point
30. Skoms (Posts: 118; Member since: 03 Feb 2014)
It would save Nokia from microsoft and they would start making money
56. wolfsaviorzx (unregistered)
Nokia doesn't need saved. Microsoft saved Nokia. Honestly Sony makes better phones than Nokia, that's just a fact (Camera is about the same, but more powerful water proof etc.). Who would pick a Nokia Android phone over a Sony or Samsung Android phone? Only the people who would buy a Windows Nokia phone in the first place.
32. NokiaFTW (Posts: 1697; Member since: 24 Oct 2012)
As written in my earlier comment, adopting Android doesn't always lead to success. Infact the only successes I can see in Android-land is Samsung & Google themselves. Look at the likes of HTC, Sony, LG & the biggest evidence of Android not being a success is Motorola. No doubt that the likes of the One, Z1, G2 or the Moto X are great phones and in my opinion are better than the S4. However, which phone has the sales at the end of the day? Its the S4. Look af HTC, their going through a financial trouble and are gonna record another loss this quarter. Look at Sony, they sold of their VAIO division to minimize losses. Look at LG, despite a great phone like the G2, what sales do they have? And look at Motorola. Even after adopting Android, they've been sold twice; first to Google and then to Lenovo. All of them are failing to gain traction despite great phones and running Android. And what about BlackBerry? BB10 can run Android apps, yet what have they got from it? Still no traction for the platform. Samsung have been the only success story in the Android space cuz of better marketing and brand recognition. It's not like MS will sell 50 million phones in a quarter if they adopt Android. There is no company that can stop Samsung now in the Android arena, not even Nokia. Only Samsung can kill themselves, no other company can. So please stop this "MS/Nokia adopt Android" chants.
57. wolfsaviorzx (unregistered)
Agreed. Microsoft just needs to improve Windows Phone. Mainly allow Unlicensed Apps. I don't want to have to jailbreak my phone to be able to do what I can do on Windows Proper or Android. Windows Phone will pick up sales eventually but just announcing that would get at least 4% of Android users to switch (which along with other improvements could change the wind in their direction).
34. Skoms (Posts: 118; Member since: 03 Feb 2014)
I do not understand, people choose Android front of WP. Because it is flexible, you have more choice. There is an Ecosystem which is a thousand times better.
If now microsoft also make money through Android license fees.
Why can not they make Android phones as well as get people to choose what they want.
Then they would start selling the phones instead of giving them away.
They can make an Android laucher that would be better than their own OS
40. Deaconclgi (Posts: 210; Member since: 03 Nov 2012)
I would not buy it. I already have a Nexus 5 and my G2 is arriving today, I have my stable of Windows Phones, led by the 1520 and 1020 and then there is the iPhone 5s, iPad 4 and iPhone 4. Out of them all, I prefer Windows Phone as it is easier to get information without actually opening apps. Yes, I have widgets on Android but I have to go and set those up whereas the Live Tiles are essential and are the main draw to Windows Phone for my use case scenarios.
Windows Phone is what made me finally lay Symbian aside due to the Live Tiles. I have had Android and iOS and Symbian devices for years but the animations of the Live Tiles and the lack of on default screen animation and information on Android, iOS and Symbian has kept my SIM card in my various Windows Phones.
In the end, user choice is great and I hope that whatever Microsoft does in the future, it continues to build on the Modern UI and everything that makes the Windows Ecosystem (desktop, laptop, tablet and phone familiarity/account sync) work as well as it does.
46. snowgator (Posts: 3187; Member since: 19 Jan 2011)
And here in lied the problem with a Microsoft who drops WP. There are those of us who prefer it, but beyond that:
How does it help the mobile competition? Why is it here in the US (most of PA's readership), we explode over the idea of losing T-Mobile as a 4th carrier because we do not want to lose that option and we want them affect the other carriers, but most everyone on here is okay with WP dying? I want the competition in the mobile OS space. Sure, I wish WP was more in the 10-15% sales to drive a better product, but ANY pressure put on Android and iOS is a good thing.
And besides, I would be happy with an Android, but I am honestly happier with WP. Why are ya'll messing with da Gator's happy place??