Dear Windows Phone team: Two OSes aren't better than one

Summary:Smartphones that boot both Windows Phone OS and Android -- or offer users a choice between the two? If either of these plans really is in the works, I have one question for Microsoft: Why?

There's a second report -- following on Bloomberg's October 2013 one -- out today that Microsoft has considered trying to get Android handset makers to allow Android and/or the Windows Phone OS on the same device.

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The new report, courtesy of The Information (and summarized by Windows Phone Central for nonsubscribers), claims Microsoft has considered ways to get Android phone makers to either allow end users to choose between the two OSes or two install both simultaneously on a single phone.

I have a lot of questions after reading these reports. But the biggest one is... WHY?

Yes, I know Windows Phone still is stuck below five percent in U.S. marketshare, compared with Android's 50-plus percent here. And yes, I know Windows Phone, even with 200,000 apps, is trailing Android, app-wise, by some crazy amount.

But wasn't Microsoft's original plan with Windows Phone a couple years ago to rein in the total number of handset makers so that it could work with a chosen few who would craft handsets that shared a common look and feel? Wasn't it Microsoft pointing out not so long ago that Android phones had become like Windows Mobile phones of old, meaning it was impossible for consumers to tell what was a Windows Phone vs. what wasn't? (And which Windows Phones were running which version of the OS?)

Once Microsoft announced plans to buy Nokia's handset division, lots changed, of course. (Even before Microsoft bought Nokia's handset business, Nokia is/was already making an estimated 90 percent-plus of Windows Phones on the market.) Microsoft officials said they hoped and expected the handful of Windows Phone OEMs that were not Nokia to continue to produce Windows Phone handsets. Some may; some may not. In at least one case, at least one of the may-nots could be hindered by its own financial problems as much, if not more than, any kind of worry over Nokia becoming a part of Microsoft.

A smartphone that offered users both Windows Phone and Android in a dual-boot scenario would make about as much sense as a PC or tablet that lets users switch between the two operating systems . (In other words, none. Why not just use BlueStacks if you have Android apps without which you can't live on your Windows 8.x PC/tablet?)

A smartphone that offered users a choice of Windows Phone or Android also wouldn't make a whole lot of sense -- for Microsoft or for users, in my book. Isn't Microsoft already making close to a billion dollars a year, based on unofficial rumored estimates, by threatening Android and ChromeOS makers with patent suits? That seems like a more dependable income stream than dropping the cost of the Windows Phone OS license to zero and hoping that everyday consumers will know enough about Windows Phone to opt for that very different looking OS over the more familiar Android.

Is there anyone out there -- phone user, developer, OEM -- who sees something I'm missing? Is there some reason this dual-boot Android-Windows Phone OS idea makes sense on any level? I'm all ears....

Update: Developer @JoseFajardo suggested on Twitter a couple of reasons he would like to see a dual-boot OS. He noted that a number of his relatives are now gaming on Android and want him to play, but a number of the games aren't on Windows Phone. Additionally, if Google continues to block its services from working ( well and/or at all) on Windows Phone, maybe offering Android and Windows Phone OS both would allow users a guaranteed way to sync with Google Drive, GMail, YouTube, etc. Convincing arguments?

Update No. 2: Another contact of mine says this isn't and wasn't a dual-boot discussion at all. It's actually more about Microsoft trying to find ways to remove stumbling blocks for OEMs so that building a more generic handset that can be provisioned to run either Windows Phone OS or Android is possible. If that's the case, this whole plan sounds a lot less insane than reports have indicated. 

Topics: Windows Phone, Android, Microsoft, Smartphones

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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