Five reasons Microsoft could become a top Android smartphone company

I think Microsoft has a real shot of being a top-tier Android hardware company. Yes, I'm quite serious.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

The audience and the judge have spoken in our recent Microsoft and Android debate and they agreed with me that Microsoft/Nokia making Android phones is a smart move. But, can Microsoft give Samsung a run for its money as a top Android company? I think Microsoft might have a real chance of doing just that.

Microsoft/Nokia's best shot of becoming a major smartphone power is by embracing Android.

Here's why.

1) Microsoft already makes major profits from Android.

How much? Thanks to its patent agreements, Microsoft may have made as much as $3.4 billion in 2013 from Android sales. Heck, if it wasn't for its Android patents, the analyst firm Nomura thinks Microsoft's entertainment and devices division (EDD), which covers Xbox, Windows Phone and Skype would actually lose $2-billion dollars a year!

With its forthcoming Nokia acquisition, Microsoft could make ten times that much from its own Android smartphones. Also, unlike its potential Android competitors, Microsoft won't have to pay its own patent fees. That automatically makes each MS-Android phone more profitable for Microsoft than an equivalent device for say Samsung.

Thinking of the Android phone powerhouse, Samsung owns the Android smartphone market the way Microsoft controls the PC market. Microsoft is one of the few companies with the resources to go toe-to-toe with Samsung. All it needs is to commit to a mobile operating system that people wants.

2) Android already owns the market.

The smartphone OS that everyone wants is Android. IDC's latest fourth-quarter ranking shows Android has more than 78 percent of the worldwide smartphone market.. Between Android and IOS, the powerful mobile OS pair has 95 percent of the market.

I don't care how much you may like some Windows Phones, they're not selling. It's been over a year now Windows Phone 8 was introduced, and it's still not making serious inroads on either Android or iOS.

3) MS-Android has unique advantages over its competitors.

Ask anyone who makes Android phones what their biggest marketing problem is and they'll tell that's it's trying to get their devices to stand out from their competitors. So, they add bloatware, which customers usually hate, or they paint on their own custom interface, which really doesn't look that different from anyone else's front-end.

What's a company to do? Well, if you're Microsoft, it can offer customers, Outlook instead of Gmail; Office 365 over Google Docs; and OneDrive, formerly SkyDrive, in place of Google Drive. Get the idea?

Microsoft has real software-as-a-service (SaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) alternatives to Google's offerings. While I have no love for Microsoft's applications, there are hundreds of millions of users who have been using Outlook and Office since they first used a computer. A lot of them would love to use the apps they've known since they were kids on a widely-supported platform such as Android.

4) Lower development costs.

I don't know how much Microsoft is spending on building Windows Phone 9, but it's got to be north of a hundred million. How much does it cost to build Android? Oh wait, Microsoft doesn't have to spend a thin dime on creating Android! Google, and other open-source developers, are the ones picking up the tab to build the Android Open Source Project (AOSP).

5) More apps, more developers

Android also already has a huge number of developers and existing applications. In fact, the Google Play store already has a million apps. Windows Phone? It probably just crossed over 200,000 apps. The Android developers are out there, it won't cost them much money or time to bring their apps to MS-Android.

Presto! For far less money, Microsoft cuts its internal development costs and opens its doors to tens of thousands of new developers and hundreds of thousands of new programs.


Add it all up: If Microsoft gives MS-Android devices a serious push, they can make more money per phone then their competitors. The boys from Redmond will also riding the most popular mobile operating system to market for far less money than they've been investing in their own failed mobile operating system.

Besides, unlike every other major player in the market, except for Amazon with its Kindle Fire tablets, the Windows giant has a unique selling point: Microsoft applications and the cloud services that back them. Last, but never least when it comes to selling smartphones, Microsoft has the potential to immediately quintuple the number of applications for their new Android-based platform over its lagging Windows Phone devices.

I really do think this is Microsoft's smartest mobile move. Look at BlackBerry's example. Once the biggest company in business smartphones, the company is in danger of dying. Its last, best chance of surviving is the forlorn hope that bringing Android apps to Blackberry far too late to market can save the business. Microsoft's far healthier than Blackberry, but its best shot to becoming relevant in the smartphone business is by embracing Android. Then, who knows, Microsoft may finally become a smartphone success.

Related Stories:

Editorial standards