If anyone still had doubts about whether Microsoft has moved from a "devices and services" company to a "productivity and platforms" one, those misgivings should be gone as of today, March 1.
As rumored, Microsoft has struck a deal with Samsung to preload several Microsoft applications and services on the the new Samsung Galaxy S6 Android phone. At least so far, this news looks to overshadow the new low-/mid-range Windows Phone devices expected to be unveiled by Microsoft and its mobile OEM partners at Mobile World Congress this week.
The Galaxy S6 comes with all the key Google apps preinstalled, as one would expect. But it also is preloaded with Microsoft's OneNote note-taking app and OneDrive cloud storage app/service. Samsung's spec sheet says the S6 and S6 Edge will offer users 115 GB of free OneDrive storage for two years. From screen shots on various sites, it looks like Skype is preloaded on these new Samsung devices, too, and available via a Microsoft apps folder.
Microsoft's mobile Office apps for Android are not part of the preload deal, which was originally reported, and later amended, by SamMobile.com. Users who want Office Mobile for Android can download it; updated versions of the mobile Office apps for Android phones are coming at a future date.
In recent months, Microsoft's interest and ability to build really nice cross-platform applications for iOS and Android has become more evident. OneNote, OneDrive, Skype and the evolving Office universal apps are available for iOS, Android and Windows/ Windows Phone.
But today is the first time (I believe) that Microsoft has struck a deal with a non-Windows/Windows Phone OEM to preload any of its apps and services on its devices. Technically, I guess you could count the Apple-Microsoft deal via which Microsoft's Bing search is the Web-search fallback for Siri as another example of an OEM preload deal. But to me, today's Microsoft-Samsung deal is more of a true first in this category.
We don't know the terms of the Samsung deal -- and whether or not the deal was part of the recent Microsoft-Samsung legal settlement involving Android patent royalties. But I'm betting it's just the first of a number of Microsoft preload deals for Android devices.
With this new deal, Microsoft just upped the importance of showing users why Windows/Windows Phone is supposedly a better platform than the competition. Microsoft officials continue to claim that the level of service integration that Microsoft will offer Windows users will be superior to what it offers users of its software and services on iOS and Android.
Sure, we've seen a few hints, such as the integration of Cortana with the coming Spartan browser for Windows 10, and Cortana with OneDrive/touch-first Office for Windows. But if there really is much more of a distinction or advantage for Windows users here, Microsoft needs to highlight it -- and sooner rather than later....
Update: There was another Microsoft OEM deal revealed at Mobile World Congress. Sony announced a new Android tablet, the Xperia Z4, which comes with the Android versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint preloaded.