That Apple changed the course of the smartphone industry is well understood. That Microsoft was caught flatfooted behind the iPhone’s success is also well know. The Windows maker didn’t view Apple’s iPhone as a serious threat and the company suffers with a tiny single digit marketshare that is going nowhere fast as iOS and Android OS own both the smartphone and tablet segments.
What should Microsoft do to get back in the game? Make smartphones that run Android OS.
So says Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols who lists five basic reasons why Microsoft could succeed.
- Microsoft Profits From Android – Various patent agreements make money (as much as a few billion a year) which means Microsoft is third behind Apple and Samsung in the all important profit department.
- Android Owns The Market – Apart from Apple, which owns the industry’s profits, Android marketshare is pushing 80-percent and Windows phone sales are anemic. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
- Microsoft & Android Advantage – Ostensibly, Microsoft could add value to Android, especially with Office and ties to the enterprise. Think Outlook, Office 365, OneDrive, et al. Of course, those products are not doing much for Windows Phone.
- Lower Development Costs – Android OS is free. By scrapping Windows Phone, Microsoft reduces costs in a division where it probably makes a few billion dollars a year off Android already, and the company could focus on distinct applications and services.
- Apps & Developers – This is a catch 22, vicious circle of epic proportions. Windows Phone doesn’t compete well because it doesn’t have the sales numbers to stimulate developers to create applications, and with a tiny portfolio of popular applications sales are anemic. That problem goes away when a Microsoft smartphone uses Android and Google Play. Slap a Windows Phone live tiles interface on it and Microsoft’s smartphone becomes unique but totally compatible.
On the surface, all of that makes a degree of strategic common sense. If you can’t beat ‘em, and Microsoft cannot, then join ‘em. If one of the keys to product marketing success is differentiation, a Microsoft smartphone, running Android with a Windows Phone live tile interface, would stand out, especially when coupled with Office, Outlook, Office 365, OneDrive, and better connectivity to the enterprise world.
The problem is that bringing Android in-house would be a tough bill for Microsoft to swallow. It’s akin to HP’s ‘Invent’ ad campaign from a decade ago. HP sold a branded version of Apple’s popular iPod while telling the world that HP was the place for invention. Apple was the only winner and HP has yet to recover.
The smartphone and tablet industry has reached a level of product maturity far faster than many expected. Innovation is more incremental than monumental. If Microsoft does not have anything in its bag of tricks– bold game changing innovation– then it needs to join the game that is already in progress.