Editorial: Why Microsoft is turning to Android OEMs to extend it's reach
Picture it. San Francisco. MacWorld 1997. Microsoft have announced that their browser, Internet Explorer, and Office applications will be coming to the Mac. The room was filled by an audible gasp of horror and disbelief as the announcement fills the room.
This was seen as a loss of independence for Apple. Microsoft had been looked down on by Mac users for such a long time, and to be receiving financial and software assistance from 'the enemy' was almost seen as an act of surrender or treason by the faithful at the expo.
Steve Jobs moved quickly to silence these fears, "We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win Microsoft has to lose. OK?"
Fast forward almost 20 years and we can see how different the personal computing space has become. Microsoft, the company once so dominant in all things computing may still be in that position for the PC and Laptop market, but in terms of personal computing devices such as tablets and smartphones, they are vastly outnumbered.
Apple, once recipients of a handout from Microsoft rule the high-end mobile phone and tablet market and are one of the most expensive companies in the world. Google, who weren't even around at the time of the MacWorld Expo in 1997, report that more than 1.5 million Android devices are being activated every day.
Microsoft needed to do something, and do something quickly, to avoid becoming irrelevant in the modern computing world.
Enter new Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella. Only the third CEO in the company's long history. His mantra became "Mobile First, Cloud First" as he talked with press and investors. It was catchy, sure, but what did it mean?
We quickly saw this in action. Office for iPad was quickly released. Office for Android shortly came afterwards. Several Microsoft Garage projects were released for iOS and Android, but not for Windows or Windows Phone.
This time it was the turn of the Microsoft faithful to start to cry foul. Was this not a case of abandoning the core of Microsoft in order to stay afloat.
The plans for Windows 10 and Microsoft under Nadella have shown that they are looking to follow the same advice Steve Jobs gave two decades prior. To paraphrase: "We have to embrace a notion that for Microsoft to win, Microsoft has to do a really good job … and if others are going to help us, that’s great, cause we need all the help we can get. And if we screw up and we don’t do a good job, it’s not somebody else’s fault. It’s our fault. So, I think that’s a very important perspective."
Microsoft are making the smart move, they are going to where the people are. iOS and Android between them control over 80% of the mobile market. Enticing some of those users into the Microsoft ecosystem - via Office 365, OneDrive or OneNote - can make a convincing argument for those same users to keep using these services and perhaps later move to a Windows device.
Where previously it was "Windows First", it is now "Mobile first, Cloud First". Mobile does not just refer to the mobility of the device, but also the mobility of the experience.
So, if you pick up a new Dell Android Tablet and want to create an Excel Spreadsheet or PowerPoint Presentation, you can. When you get to work, you can continue that same document on your PC and when you get home and want to complete it on your Mac.
This new deal with Android OEMs is a smart move by Microsoft. I would say it is smart for the OEMs also and that the deal is unofficially being offset as a rebate of sorts to the same OEMs on their Android royalty or patent licencing fees they currently pay to Microsoft.
Peggy Johnston, Executive VP of Business Development at Microsoft looks at it in a different light, "We’ve proven that we’re not afraid to look outside ourselves to reinvent ourselves. We’ve received fantastic customer feedback for making Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, OneDrive and Skype available across all platforms."
The initial move to release these as Apps in the App store was only the beginning of their plan. "We’re far from done. Now we see an opportunity to turn our focus to our device partners — easing mobile access to great apps and services for customers by pre-installing them directly on the device"
As a result, there is no word yet whether these applications will be the default applications for file types or for Storage. However, when you pick up a brand new device from Dell, TrekStor, JP Sa Couto, Datamatic, DEXP, Hipstreet, QMobile, Tecno, Casper, or Pegatron you will see Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive and Skype installed by default.
We'll see over the coming year how this plays out for Microsoft, especially after the Summer release of Windows 10. Will the mantra then become "Mobile first, Cloud first, Windows Best".