Microsoft’s endeavor with Windows Phone has been one of colossal effort and modest gains. Seeing that Windows Phone was quite late to the market and that it took several iterations to bring it close to having feature parity with its competitors, it is perhaps no surprise that the OS remains a distant third in its share of the smartphone market.
That’s not to say that Windows Phone 8.1 isn’t great - in fact, it’s the first version of Windows Phone that is truly comparable with its rivals across nearly all metrics, and in terms of Cortana, it even outclasses iOS. But with its market share so small - latest estimates peg it at around 3% - the return on Microsoft's Windows Phone investment remains low.
Against that backdrop, Microsoft has been considering any and all ideas to help give its mobile efforts a much-needed boost. Before we go further, know that these were ideas discussed inside the walls of Microsoft about how to boost Windows Phone adoption. What we do not know is if these ideas ever made it off of the drawing board but we do know that these were genuine ideas presented to help push the adoption rate of the platform.
Android Apps on Windows Phone
Not long ago, rumors started circulating about the idea of running Android apps on Windows Phone. Neowin has spoken with sources with first hand knowledge of Microsoft's plans, who told us that the company has considered this path.
There is merit to this idea too. Windows Phone is often lamented for its lack of support from developers for critical apps. Yes, many key apps may be available, but consider even a high-profile example like the official Twitter app, which is an embarrassment to the service when you compare it to what is available on Android or iOS.
There are a couple issues with getting apps on to Windows Phone, namely, Google Play certification. Unless Microsoft wants to try to get access to the official Play store, it’s only other option would be to go the Amazon route and create its own Android store, and it could be a colossal headache to support two different stores on one device. This dichotomy would likely also present confusion to Windows Phone users.
The other issue that is present, which is a much greater concern for the folks in Redmond, is that if they do allow Android apps on Windows Phone, why would developers want to create a Windows Phone app when they know Android apps will work?
Allow enthusiasts to install Windows Phone on their Android device
The enthusiast communities have a significant impact on a platform and its ability to become mainstream. If you think way back to the launch of the first iPhone, Jailbreak.me was a driving force behind the now massive jailbreaking community and likely had a measurable impact on sales as iOS became the new playing ground for those who like to tinker.
The same can be said about Android as well. The OS has a massive following over on the XDA communities and 'rooting' is familiar terminology to many Android users. But for Windows Phone, this hardcore community does not exist in any sizeable number. At one point, there was ChevronWP7, but that effort has since died out. So, what has Microsoft considered? Our sources have indicated that the company has looked at the idea of allowing Android users to flash Windows Phone on to their device.
It seems a bit crazy but when you think about it, it's not that far fetched of an idea. For starters, Android hardware is generally quite close to that of Windows Phone (especially from vendors like HTC and Samsung).
Why would Microsoft want to do this? Simple, Android phones are everywhere and the enthusiast program is massive. If they can offer up a way for them to safely flash Windows Phone on to their device and try out the OS, it's an easy way to start a grass-roots movement for the OS. Yes, there are a lot of technical questions that would have to be assessed but nothing that Microsoft couldn't overcome.
First, official support from Microsoft would be out the window, this would purely be a way for those with the technical chops to get access to Windows Phone. Second, Microsoft would need to find a way to make it easy to revert back to hardware's initial platform as well.
It's certainly an interesting idea; going directly to Android's biggest fans and giving them an option to try out Windows Phone on their hardware and on their terms. If successful, Microsoft could kick start its own enthusiast communities to help sell more genuine Windows Phones.
These are ideas and may never leave the drawing board
Both of these ideas may never see the light of day but they have been discussed inside the walls of Microsoft in the recent past. While each one raises many questions, we know that Microsoft is willing to do anything it can to gain market share, including giving away its software.
Will Microsoft execute on any of the ideas mentioned here? That's still to be determined but considering that they are already spending billions on Windows Phone, they have the capacity to deliver on both these fronts if they choose to do so.