Microsoft expanding program to put Windows 10 on Xiaomi Android phones

If you can't beat 'em, just get them to switch their software. Offering a Windows 10 build to Android handset owners is a smart strategy given Microsoft's waning phone sales.

Even after scaling back its Windows Phone ambitions, Microsoft isn't giving up on getting handsets to run Windows 10. The company will broaden a program in China to let Xiaomi device owners switch their mobile platform from Android.

Neowin spotted Microsoft's Joe Belfiore tweeting the news on Thursday, saying, "We intend to start our insider program in China with Xiaomi phones in the next few weeks... The software is running very nicely on these!" The expanded access to Windows 10 on Xiaomi handsets follows a limited effort earlier this month.

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Although I wouldn't expect Windows 10 phone market share to jump overnight, it's a smart strategy by Microsoft, which has already made a big push to get its software and services on both iOS and Android handsets.

If you can't sell hardware that runs your mobile operating system, why not try to get the software to power existing phones?

Xiaomi is good option for Microsoft's plans: The company has quickly grown to become the second largest handset maker based in China, following its top rival, Huawei. In the first half of 2015, Xiaomi sold 34.7 million smartphones; a rise of 33 percent from the first six months of 2014.

The company's Mi 4 was already part of the special Windows Insider program and should run Microsoft's Windows 10 Mobile software well.

The Mi 4 runs on a 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon chip paired with 3 GB of memory, for example.

That's almost overkill for a solid Windows experience on a smartphone based on my experience with the far more limited Nokia Lumia 520 handset which has an older dual-core chip and a scant 512 MB of memory.

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Even with bare-bones specs, the newest Windows software runs well on my 520, although it isn't compatible with all of the newest Windows features.

How much can Microsoft gain by offering Windows to Android device owners?

I doubt the company can double its user-base in the short term but over the long haul, it could see some switchers; particularly since the targeted Android hardware is more capable than even Microsoft's own flagship Lumia devices. And every little bit helps: More people running Windows on a handset could entice more developers to the Windows ecosystem.