Hello, MS-Android. Good-bye, Windows Phone

Hello, MS-Android. Good-bye, Windows Phone

Summary: Nokia may be making the Android X, X+ and XL handsets, but at the end of the day it was Microsoft's call to produce Android phones. This is bad news for Windows Phone.

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One Operating System to rule them all;
One Operating System to find them;
One Operating System to bring them all and in Android bind them.*

Or, some people would add, "in Google bind them." But that's not true: Android is much too open for Google to lock vendors in. Amazon proved that with its Kindle line, and now Microsoft's smartphone company, Nokia, wants to show that Android will work well with Microsoft services too.

nokia-x-610x407
Nokia's --really, Microsoft's -- new Android phones.

Yes, Microsoft is supporting Linux by way of Android. Do you really think -- with the clock running down on Microsoft's final acquisition of Nokia -- that the Finnish phone company would make such a move without Microsoft's full backing? I don't.

I think Microsoft and Nokia have made a smart move. I'm not the only one.

Mary Jo Foley, the top Microsoft reporter on the planet, writes: "Nokia is clearly wooing Android developers who want to build apps for users in developing markets." I think it's bigger than greenfield markets. I think Microsoft/Nokia wants Android developers creating apps for all markets.

Gallery: Hands-on with Nokia's Android X and XL devices

Why? Because Windows Phone has failed. Even in Europe, where Microsoft's mobile operating system seems to do the best, it seems to have stalled out at the 10 percent mark.

Android rules the smartphone market. Canalys reported that 80 percent of all smartphones shipped in 2013 ran Android. Gartner predicts that Android will reach 1.1-billion users in 2014. Do the math. Android is where mobile developers spend their time, not Windows Phone.

Ed Bott, a Windows pro's pro and no friend to open-source operating systems, also sees Microsoft sticking with Nokia's new Android phones. As Bott has pointed out before, Microsoft is turning into a services and hardware company instead of the operating system and application giant we've known for decades.

That being the case, Bott argues, "Microsoft’s arch-rival in the mobile market is Google, not Android. Microsoft’s services – Office 365 and Outlook.com, OneDrive cloud storage for consumers and businesses, communications via Lync and Skype, among many others – work on multiple platforms. They compete on most of those platforms with Google services, like Gmail and Google Apps and Google Drive and Google+ Hangouts."

He's perfectly correct—Yes Ed Bott and Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols are in complete agreement for once and hell hasn't even frozen over!

Bott, unlike Foley, also can see Microsoft/Nokia moving its Android smartphones to the high end. I agree. Microsoft would love it if by next year's Mobile World Congress, the hot talk was whether Samsung's Galaxy S6 or the Nokia XP was the best phone of the show. But, what Microsoft would love even more is if users were running Outlook, Office 365, and OneDrive instead of Gmail, Google Apps, and Google Drive on their devices --regardless of the specific platform.

Last, but never least in the list of reasons why Microsoft can back Android: The boys from Redmond already make billions from Android. I estimated that Microsoft made as much as $3.4 billion in 2013 from Android. This revenue comes from Microsoft's Android patent deals. While I don't think there's anything to these patents, companies would rather pay than fight, so at least once a month another phone OEM, such as Hop-on, signs up as an Android patent licensee.

James Kendrick, ZDNet's moble device expert, disagrees with us. He can't see "Microsoft having Android products under its roof. Having to support another platform in addition to its own is going to be a tremendous effort, and while Microsoft has the resources to do it I can't see it. It just doesn't feel right to me and I think there are quite a few Microsofties who will feel the same."

I see eye to eye with Kendrick that there are many Microsoft developers that will Hate the Android move. If Ballmer were still in charge, I'd worry that the Windows Phone faction get their way. Ballmer's not. Satya Nadella is the man now, and what does he know best? He knows the cloud. And, what do Microsoft's services run on? Yes, that's right. They run on the Microsoft cloud.

The heavy lifting for Nokia's apps has already been done over on Azure-based cloud. Google's done the hard work of creating the base operating system. In terms of developer man-hours, Nokia-Android isn't going to cost Microsoft that much. And, come to think of it, Microsoft won't have to pay itself those patent royalty-fees!

As for the app front-end, that work will be done by the tens of thousands of Android programmers who are already out there. Sure, Microsoft's internal developers may not be up to speed on Android, but all those third-party mobile programmers know Android like the back of their smartphones.

The real question is whether Android independent software vendors (ISV)s will think it's worth their time. I think that they will.

Within Microsoft what I see happening is that the company will start backing off Windows Phone. Kendrick's right, you see. It is too much to ask Microsoft to support two mobile operating systems, so I think they'll slowly and quietly drop the least-profitable of them: Windows Phone.

I still can't see Microsoft producing MS-Linux—although I wouldn't count it out either—but I can see Microsoft retiring Windows Phone. Supporting Android with their own app suite simply makes too much financial sense to do otherwise.

*With apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien.

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Topics: Mobility, Android, Google, Microsoft, Mobile OS, MWC, Nokia, Smartphones, Windows Phone

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186 comments
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  • Windows Phone is way better

    This column is ridiculous. When the X phones fails, and Windows Phone continues to grow like it did the past year, be prepared to insert foot-in-mouth.
    Sean Foley
    • Empirical Data

      The Author of this column is bating readers for "clicks". We all know this cheap Android phone has no chance among the sea of other Android phones. Soon enough Microsoft will have empirical data showing that Nokia Win Phones sell way better than Nokia Android phones.
      marc_w
      • SJVN is the troll in residence at ZDNet

        "it was Microsoft's call to produce Android phones"

        SRSLY?

        No - Microsoft is not allowed in any way, shape or form, to interfere with Nokia's business until AFTER it's purchase of Nokia is complete. For it to do so would put the entire deal in jeopardy.

        Nokia would have begun the work to port Android onto its devices some time ago - long before Microsoft announced its intention to purchase the company. It is wise of Nokia to continue this work in case the Microsoft deal falls-through.

        Once the purchase is complete, it's anyone's guess whether Microsoft will keep the Android line. Personally, I wonder whether Microsoft will continue these devices in developing countries in order to test-out strategies for attacking Google-endowed Android platforms in the developed world. Either way, it's going to be interesting to watch this unfold.
        bitcrazed
        • You evidently didn't know MS has been in charge all along.

          Why else would Nokia have lost such large share of the smartphone market?
          jessepollard
          • Nokia Market Share

            Nokia market share was lost before they introduced Windows Phones.
            groberts116
          • Not so

            Nokia's market share was already in decline when Elop was hired, but the adoption of WP appears to have accelerated the trend.
            John L. Ries
          • yeah right

            it was only when they introduced the Windows phone OS that their sales actually started to go back up and doing away with the win phone OS altogether would be shooting themselves in the foot. This move is simply and effort to cover a wider spectrum of the market share
            rbs2842
          • Phone market share

            Microsoft isn't going to make much headway with phones no matter what OS they use because the phone market is too mature. However, there probably is still time with tablets, and they could switch to Linux in this market and perhaps become competitive. They've become rich and powerful with Windows, but now Windows is is holding them back. It's time to say goodbye to Windows and retool with Linux.
            StevenAbaby
          • I agree

            Microsoft is to blame for their dismal showing in smart phones and tablets. Too little to late, the same as Microsoft did with the Zune. Perfectly fine personal player but was way late to gain any market from Apple and iPods. People buy into ecosystems like iTunes and they really cannot just buy a Zune and move over from iTunes. Same for apps which many are free but some are purchased. When you are in a Android or iPhone ecosystem, you tend to stay there unless something is really much better. Windows phones were never better, just different.
            JohnnyES-25227553276394558534412264934521
        • Harumph

          Nokia's management would never consult with its future owners regarding initiatives. Its future owners would never make a comment about how Nokia could make it a nicer package at closing.

          There's just no way Nokia would run the issue past Microsoft and see if it affected their contracts regarding os licensing. No. Way.

          Ouija, dartboard and D&D dice: that's how you run a multi-billion dollar company that is shedding its business and changing priorities.

          Because this whole planning and coordinating thing, Bitcrazed says you don't do that.

          Yeah, that well known CEO and M&A expert, Bitcrazed!
          DannyO_0x98
          • Bitcrazed is 100% correct

            In what is actually a bit of legal irony, MS *absolutely could not* have done anything to influence the company they were going to buy. It's the law, and it's taken very seriously. Should it come out that MS *did* in fact "coordinate" with Nokia on this since making an offer to buy them out, the deal would be scuttled by regulators and people in both companies would *go to jail.*

            It can be almost taken as fact that MS did not have anything to do with this. It doesn't mean they don't like it, or see it is a good strategy, but it wasn't *their* strategy.
            x I'm tc
          • Yet they've been "influencing them"

            Ever since Microsoft made the$2 Billion down payment years ago. Putting Elop in charge, was Microsoft "Influencing them". Assigning patents to the Patent Troll Company (MOSAID), was Microsoft "Influencing them". It's bee happening right out in front of everyone, yet no one noticed...
            I hate trolls also
          • ...

            There is a world of difference between companies collaborating together and a potential acquirer telling a company that it is trying to acquire "don't do X or we'll adjust terms/pull-out"

            E.g., Google still (and has for years) invested in Mozilla. They also sponsor/invest in many 'partners' working on tech in Google's interests. Nothing wrong with that. If, however Google was to announce that they wanted to acquire Mozilla, they would be unable to coerce Mod to NOT release new versions of Firefox on OSX/Windows until AFTER the deal is closed.
            bitcrazed
          • What rock have you put your head under?

            One name: Stephen Elop. This Microsoft Employee was installed as the CEO, of Nokia, then Nokia suddenly abandons their previous work, does not produce a phone, for 9 months loses massive marketshare (and stock value). Are we to believe this was all just a coincidence?
            I hate trolls also
          • Yet, MS had to license their cloud services

            MS clearly HAD to be a part of this design, indirectly, in that Nokia had to work with them on licensing of their cloud services. MS could have simply scuttled the activity by refusing to do so.

            I AM surprised, however, that Nokia was allowed to do this at all, by the terms of their 2011 agreement with MS. I thought it wasn't until 2015 that they would be free to create handsets with other than Windows Phone. Maybe they successfully reasoned these are Asha rather than Lumia handsets.
            daboochmeister
          • legal hancuffs.

            '... thought it wasn't until 2015 that they would be free to create handsets with other than Windows Phone..'

            would MS itself be free even in the interim to create Android handsets?
            i think they would.
            later have the Nokia group push them.
            pensiveone
          • ....

            Not true. his would just be considered a joint venture by 2 companies with a common core. It does not show collusion or market cornering. Companies can freely work together as a joint developement without and law breaking. What your saying would make no sense. Now if a deal was known to be in place and stocks were being traded or messed with then an issue but joint projects are fine.
            Fletchguy
        • Cute thought but naive

          MS's lap dog has been in charge of this company for some time and served Nokia up liked a stuffed pig to his MS. There is no doubt that MS is pulling the strings behind the scenes, the real question is why this is happening. I can make several guesses but they would only be guesses.
          KBabcock75
          • If nokia had gone Android instead of Windows Phone ...

            ... they'd be dead or in someone else's pocket by now.

            The only company making survivable profits on Android hardware right now is Samsung. Perhaps Lenovo can turn Motorola around, but that's far from given.
            bitcrazed
          • Desprite people do desprite things

            The fact that Nokia had no real choice but to go MS does not mean it is a good move.

            This was just two companies who both where asleep at the wheel and let the competition take there market share, they are now joined together in a despite hope that two wrongs will make a right. So far the market has not been kind to them.
            KBabcock75