Microsoft Expansion: Subverting Android One App at a Time

Microsoft Expansion: Subverting Android One App at a Time

When it comes to operating systems, the name “Microsoft” is bound to ring in everyone’s ears. They deserve that recognition, given that they have been a major player in desktop computing since the early days of GUIs. While their advancements in the PC world are arguably some of the fundamental pillars of all software experiences we have today, the famous Windows offering wasn’t brought without a story reminiscent of imperial conquers. The tactics that brought Microsoft to the spotlight so many years ago were fierce then, and Microsoft still knows how to play.

When it comes to mobile operating systems, Microsoft had a good start with its original Windows offerings for what we’d now consider primitive smartphones. XDA’s birth and initial steps were largely dependent on adding extras to PDA’s (PDA… XDA… see the resemblance?) and the Windows smartphones of back then played a large part in forging a base for the community. Today we still have busy Windows Phone forums. Microsoft’s early advantage might have diminished, but it’s certainly not gone.

What might seem alarming to some, however, are the recent advances that Microsoft has made to try to regather that lost presence: some are apparent, some subtle, and some are wicked smart. Last quarter, Lumia phones actually outsold their year-before’s numbers by 28% and this is without a strong flagship in their line-up. This is not that surprising when you consider the smartphone focus shift towards the mid-range and emerging markets. While their Windows Phone revenue is still down, the Nokia termination of last year might have had a big part in this.

Microsoft might not be making huge strides in hardware or operating systems, but their scheme has turned into something a little more sneaky – not to say subversive. We can’t know what goes on at their HQ, but it is clear that they are exploiting the openness of other tech giants to expand their brands and services with several offerings over the past year. And this all seems perfectly coordinated on many fronts.

Microsoft had began expanding their app presence on other platforms while also strengthening their Windows Phone feature set. Cortana, their mobile voice assistant, has received pretty favorable reviews from both users and critics during its very early steps, for example. As far as their services go, they are very strong: revenue for their commercial cloud grew %116. Office subscriptions also went up from 3.5 million to 9.2 million in a year, but their revenue dropped as well.

With the latest software entrepreneuring of Microsoft, there seems to be a pattern: a lot of investment. While their numbers, adoption rates and practical evolution is there, the money is still bleeding away in some divisions. Not in a bad way, though, and certainly not in a Bing way. It is clear, however, that their presence in competing operating systems is growing. They had big consumer apps release lately, including a couple of lockscreens such as Picturesque (which also shows almost insulting signs of Microsoft service propaganda) that became rather popular among tech blogs (for reasons I can’t understand). But the meat of Microsoft’s plate is their serious services, and they made sure to show up to the ball too. What’s more, the previously mentioned Cortana is also coming to Android to take a shot at Google Now’s voice assisting crown.

Microsoft’s Office services hit Android this year, bringing forth a huge repertoire of productivity tools for those that want to transition from desktops to tablets in a flash. While Google’s document editing services are strong, Microsoft’s expertise in the field gained them the marketing push needed to become a presence in Android. Outlook made it to Android early in 2015 but not without controversy, as the application quickly got under fire for apparent vulnerabilities that rendered it unusable for enterprise. The fact that Microsoft could store credentials and other sensible data in the cloud in such a way made some wary, especially with Bill Gates’ Personal Agent project approaching reality.

But there’s more to Microsoft’s investments and incursion into Android: earlier this year it was commented that Microsoft would partake in a partnership with Cyanogen, beginning with a funding round of up to $70 million. This would have fueled rogue Cyanogen’s war against Google, and further destabilize the search giant’s control over its own platform – except that (perhaps luckily) the plan didn’t go through like it was reported it would, but deals are still not completely discarded and future Cyanogen devices could actually see Microsoft software.

Microsoft software pre-installed on Android sounds like a blasphemy, but it is actually a reality. If you still don’t believe Microsoft’s incursion into Android is at full force. the reports on the Galaxy S6 coming with Microsoft bloatware might change your mind. This is a smart move, given that the S6’s revolutionary approach to the old iterative releases of the S-line has sparked quite the demand, with pre-orders far outpacing previous years for Samsung. This could give Microsoft an extra bit of marketing given that this phone is in line to be one of the best-selling devices of this year – and perhaps of all time.

Microsoft’s platform agnosticism is also seen with their Microsoft Band wearable, and there’s been rumors of a Microsoft smartwatch for a while too. Given the incredible smartwatch line-up that is coming soon, as well as the strengthening of wearables as a whole, it wouldn’t be unimaginable to think that the rumors shouldn’t have stopped with the Band, for if wearables grow further Microsoft will be sure to take their piece of the cake. And given all of these attempts to exploit Android’s popularity to strengthen their own service ecosystem, it makes sense to expect such a product to be Android-ready.

So we’ve got an expansion of their Drive services, Office for Android offerings, more enterprise solutions aimed at Android tablets, a bunch of smaller apps with an emphasis on Microsoft service propaganda, possible relationships with Google’s newfound software rival and actual relationships with big OEMs. All of this on a framework of heavy investment with seemingly no neat profit, in an expansion plan for both hardware and software. Xiaomi, for example, is also ”helping” Microsoft test software to convert Android devices to Windows phones. While this is currently an experimental approach, the repercussions of finalized and available implementations could be enormous if done right.

What is the end-game of all of this? We don’t know, but the imperialistic expansion of Microsoft is not just smart, but also a very careful subversion disguised as typical corporate symbiosis. This all ties in too neatly into their upcoming Windows 10 release, which aims to provide a mainstream-ready platform that unifies gaming, media consumption, enterprise and regular computing into a single Microsoft-branded ecosystem. With the service adoption that these tactics bring them, as well as the recognition, marketing, and growth that come with them, one would think Microsoft is playing a good card game at setting up what could be one of the most massive software releases of all time.

There is a lot to discuss here, and we will address the different links between all of these tactics as well as their current and possible developments in a set of future articles circumventing Microsoft’s Android game. Expect to hear more about these topics soon, but for now we will leave you pondering as to what all of this could mean for the future of Android and personal computing as a whole.


Do you think Microsoft is playing a bigger game than what meets the eye? Discuss in the comments!

About author

Mario Tomás Serrafero
Mario Tomás Serrafero

Mario developed his love for technology in Argentina, where a flagship smartphone costs a few months of salary. Forced to maximize whatever device he could get, he came to know and love XDA. Quantifying smartphone metrics and creating benchmarks are his favorite hobbies. Mario holds a Bachelor's in Mathematics and currently spends most of his time classifying cat and dog pictures as a Data Science graduate student.