There's been a lot of talk in the past couple of weeks about whether Android and Microsoft's Windows Phone OS could and should coexist on a single device and/or form factor.
It turns out that at least one OEM already has put Android and an embedded variant of the Windows Phone OS on a single form factor. That OEM is Bluebird, a Korean handheld mobile device provider.
Bluebird announced the new five-inch device, which it is calling BM180, on January 17. The press release announcing the device interestingly doesn't mention Android at all; it focuses on Windows Embedded 8 Handheld, which is based on the Windows Phone 8 core. (There's also a new BP30 model mentioned in Bluebird's press release, which is an even more ruggedized version of the BM180.)
Thanks to a tip from @WP_Downunder's "Sheeds," I was able to grab the full specs and details about the coming device before they seemingly disappeared from Bluebird's Web site, which has been largely unavailable today.
According to Bluebird's brochure, the BM180 the "world('s) first & biggest screen smart terminal." It can run either Android 4.2 or the preview version of Windows Embedded 8 Handheld in "one form factor."
Minus the different buttons along the bottom of the devices, the BM180 whether running Android or Windows Embedded 8 looks identical, as can be seen from the screen shot at the top of this post, which I grabbed from Bluebird's brochure.
Here's another shot from Bluebird's brochure that emphasizes the choice of operating system on the device.
Various reports have claimed that Microsoft has held discussions with hardware makers about the possibilities of putting Android and Windows Phone both on a single device. I've heard the more likely discussions have been around creating single form-factor phones that could be provisioned to run either Android or the Windows Phone OS by customers and/or carriers. Microsoft officials have declined to comment on those reports.
Bluebird is one of a handful of OEMs which announced it was joining Microsoft's Windows Embedded 8 Handheld program in January 2013. The other original four partners in the program were Honeywell, Ingenico, Intermec and Motorola Solutions. (Panasonic announced at this year's NRF its intentions to build a Windows Embedded 8 Handheld device, as well.) In January 2013, Bluebird officials said they wanted their unannounced Embedded 8 Handheld device "to be the first on the market."
The Windows Embedded 8 Handheld operating system is built on the Windows Phone 8 core. Developers can write applications for Windows Embedded 8 Handheld ruggedized devices by using the Windows Phone 8 SDK. Because of the compatibility with Windows Phone 8, these devices will be able to support off-the-shelf business and productivity apps like Microsoft Lync, Office 365 and Dynamics for Retail, Microsoft officials have said.
A year ago, Microsoft officials said to expect the first ruggedized handheld phones running Windows Embedded 8 Handheld to be in the market in late 2013 or early 2014. I just learned today that Microsoft quietly RTM'd the Windows Embedded 8 Handheld operating system in August 2013, and released it to its OEMs at that time.
Bluebird's press release noted that the new ruggedized handhelds are targeted at enterprise customers (not consumers) and that some unnamed "major" U.S. retailers are in line to buy these devices.
So what to make of this single form factor running a choice of Android or a Windows Phone OS variant? Is it a precedent of similar things to come on the consumer side of mobile devices? Personally, I'm not sure at this point.