microsoft_android_gambit

Microsoft’s Android Gambit — What’s In It For Redmond?

If we stop mythologizing computing technology, we will find that there are only three companies that make some real money from Android. Google, Samsung and Microsoft.

Others get by, quarter to quarter, but they are not what you would call a rousing success.

Google, ad revenue being still its major bread and butter, had little choice not to create and popularize something like this. Sony had all the potential in the world, but was slowed down by hubris so much that Samsung barged in and took the crown with its Galaxy lineup of devices.

And Microsoft, oh it makes, say a couple of billion or so from it thanks to its patents portfolio and the licensing fee it earns for every Android phone sold. This is one income that is steadily on the up as it signs more agreements with hardware vendors and device sales increase around the globe.

But Redmond also has another trick up its proverbial sleeves.

The company seems to have given the go-ahead to Nokia to launch its Android based handset. This is reported to be a budget smartphone that it believes will invigorate the Asha lineup of affordable and entry level phones.

What’s The Big Idea?

Of what avail is working on another (competing) platform when Windows Phone itself has a lot left to prove, you may be wondering. Well for starters, Microsoft is in a unique position to inflict maximum damage by further fragmenting the Android ecosystem.

And as any army general would say during a war, why the hell not?

The Android platform, being open source and all, makes it easy for anyone to run away with it any direction. Amazon tried it with its Kindle Fire lineup of tablets — with reasonable success it must be said.

More importantly it now has its very own app store (the Amazon Appstore) with around than one fifth the apps available on Google Play. But these 154,473 apps according to the latest count are completely optimized for Kindle Fire.

Interestingly they keep Google out of the question in many ways.

Nokia is said to be planning something similar. That is, a custom app store for its Asha lineup of devices that will host optimized apps for this line of handsets. Developer interest is reportedly very high, with gossips of up to 80 percent of developers attracted to optimizing their apps for this new store.

If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them?

Yes and no. With the Nokia acquisition that is on track to be completed in the next couple of months, Microsoft will gain the rights to the Asha brand. And it has expressed interest to use it as an on-ramp of sorts to the Windows Phone platform proper.

And what better way to do so then by offering the buyers of these devices a similar look and feel to the Metro UI that is in use on Windows Phone (and Windows 8).

The newest image that just leaked out earlier today shows the Metro inspired look of Nokia Normandy, which is the codename of the first handset that is reportedly being prepared to launch this new platform. And the name itself holds special significance.

The Normandy landings, one of the most pivotal events of World War II are referenced in this mobile assault by Microsoft. Redmond clearly sees this as a bit of a D Day, the make or break moment to stop the Android attack, particularly at the mid and low end of the market.

Clever approach overall, but the big question is just how successful could this strategy be.

Take My Money Now?

Obviously, with nothing even officially confirmed, we just have the leaks and rumors to go by. But devices in the Nokia Asha lineup are slowly and steadily gaining new features and technologies. They are not the very definition of smartphones yet, but they are not very far either.

Still the Nokia Asha platform, the one built on Nokia’s Series 40 platform, is now long in the tooth.

Could Microsoft have just stripped down the Windows Phone OS to the barebones and used it to power these new set of devices? You bet it could have! But at the end of the day it is just another frontal assault on Android — which mind you the lower end Lumia devices are carrying out with distinction.

Forking out the Android platform further, and giving it a Metro look serves multiple purposes as noted above. The most important being that it offers Android developers an easier route to porting the apps that they have already created for Google Play.

If there has been a better win-win situation in the world of technology in recent memory, I know it not.

Like most things in life, the results of this new stratagem will only be visible in months, maybe even years. A lot of it will boil down the marketing too. The Asha lineup enjoys brand (and retail) visibility in many emerging markets around the world. Microsoft would now want to put this familiarity to use.

For the outsider looking in, however, Microsoft seems to have crafted a grand scheme in partnership with Nokia, one that serves multiple purposes, and demands fewer risks.

Not many may be aware of it right now, but Redmond seems to be onto something here.

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