To make Windows Phone a bigger success, Microsoft toys with the idea of playing with Google

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.

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How about changing Windows Phone's bland theme to something more aesthetically pleasing? Windows Phone: great hardware, low price, ugly OS.

I doubt these ideas were ever on the drawing board in the first place. Lately I have seen more and more official apps come to Windows Phone but the same can't be said for Blackberry which does support Android apps mainly because it's a dying platform in need of some sort of a boost and riding the Android wave seems to be the only option for the Canadian company.

Allowing users to change operating systems on their smartphones is the worst idea imaginable and will never happen in a month on Sundays, sure at one point maybe. We are seeing vast changes in Windows Phone and I think the GDR updates and Windows Phone 9 will bring more to the table.

Wait a second, they slagged Google left, right and center... now realise that "Oh we're not doing as well as we wanted", now they want Google's help?

I'll leave it there...

deadonthefloor said,

Best idea I've heard so far in this comment thread.

While i agree with you, i am really sad to imagine windows phones disappear.

To make Windows Phone a success, stop making it suck. Seriously. Stop. F*cking. It. Up. No one cares what kernel you've been swapping in the promise of some cool imaginary thing. If it doesn't work well then it still sucks.

Its really frustrating because a successful plan is so clear and should be easy for Microsoft.

They must bring their A-game to the platform. That means the core experience has to be perfect. This stupid backpedaling with Xbox Music, the still terrible sync app, the lack of international support for Bing, slow loading first party apps like Bing Health, the still mediocre Calendar app, the terrible or invisible marketing.

Beside software and marketing another important part is that Nokia and Microsoft weren't able to release a phone for the masses. They have great devices for special needs: very inexpensive, professional camera, extremely large display. But where is the middle-class device that can do everything well for a normal prize?

The apps will come automatically when Microsoft shows that they care about the platform. But the Nokia X, those rumors about Android apps and stupid ideas about bringing Cortana to other platforms doesn't help.

I'd love to be able to flash WP onto Android devices. Mainly tablets for my uses, grab a £99 ASUS tablet and flash WP on it would be great even without the phone and messaging function. Definitely something they should already have, so hopefully it's been worked on and will happen soon.

I'd install WP8.1 on my HTC One M7 in a heartbeat !! Love the hardware and Android is 8/10 for my use. I had a Samsung Focus with WP7 and that was a great phone IMO. I'd love to go Nokia/WP8(8.1) but we get holed for devices in Canada (N/A or charging way too much) through our providers and I dont want to drop $800 on a 1520 just now.

I like both, but IMO they need to embrace the google approach of allowing OEMs to make changes to the OS beyond colors and wallpapers. maybe not as wild west as android which causes terrible experiences but at least allow for custom launchers, keyboards, etc via APIs like windows does. IF stardock can make so many changes without source code, then certainly MSFT has figured this out.

better yet, unlike android, you'd have an option to uninstall OEM mods and upgrades will just work since the underlying OS didn't change.

They should deliver WP8.1 and Cyan NOW !
The longer the exhausting waiting, the more people will finally decide to go for iPhone or Android because they need a new phone.

Before I bought a Nokia I really wanted to just flash Windows onto the phone. The hardware specs etc were much better on it.
I'd think it could be relatively popular.

Windows phone ecosystem is irrelevant in the fortune 500 and have very little presence in the enthusiastic community or casual user. In fact, it might not be a major player for likely a decade or more since it's DOA with lack of fundamental feature such as folder ,notification center. Honestly,it's game over if you look at it as a whole in the long term.

Edited by Master of Earth, Jul 2 2014, 3:39pm :

Master of Earth said,
Windows phone ecosystem is irrelevant in the fortune 500 and have very little presence in the enthusiastic community or casual user. In fact, it might not be a major player for likely a decade or more since it's DOA with lack of fundamental feature such as folder ,notification center. Honestly,it's game over if you look at it as a whole in the long term.

Folders or File Manager is coming, Notification Center is there now! That's it?

Master of Earth said,

Go figure out yourself dude before replying my comment.

What? Is that really your response when he just gave the things that you said were missing.

I would start with focusing on your own platform more than other platforms. Microsoft seems to make apps on other platforms better than their own. They even have some apps on other platforms before WP/WinRT. This needs to stop if they really want market share.

How can any developer expect to develop for WP/WinRT first when Microsoft can't even do it? You know, lead by example!

If MS find no place for WP within next 2 years, MS had better give up mobile market and focuse on B2B market not waste their money and time, sources.

Crimson Rain said,
I think this is their next step: open an android app package on Visual Studio and COMPILE it for Windows (Phone).

Me thinks they are doing this already - see Nokia X......something tells me that all android applications that are able to run on the "Forked" version of android that they built for Nokia X, will run on WP.

I feel as if Microsoft is destroying the soul of windows phone in the push to making it a market success. Killing off the hubs , Bringing games out of the games app etc; .

I also feel that things like the notification shade could have been designed differently but Microsoft went the usual way to appeal to the mass market.

I had a WP8 for a few months but the lack of app support shifted me to Android. The OS is great, stable, fast and easy to use. It's majorly hurt though by it's 3rd party app support. Shame really as the hardware from Nokia is as always top notch.

gawicks said,
I feel as if Microsoft is destroying the soul of windows phone in the push to making it a market success. Killing off the hubs , Bringing games out of the games app etc; .

I also feel that things like the notification shade could have been designed differently but Microsoft went the usual way to appeal to the mass market.

I agree, when Windows Phone Series 7 was announced Microsoft looked to be onto something, they had a vision and a goal, I appreciated the design and the thoughts behind it. Years later and pushing for marketshare most of the original design ideals have been thrown away. Notification shade is one of them, removing the gutter on the home screen is another, just to name 2... actually they have thrown minimalism out of the window too with the new clear tiles and home screen pictures.

With Windows Phone 8.1 they have ended up with something OK but will it pull people from other platforms? Time will tell but its not looking good at todays 3%.

I would install Windows Phone on my Nexus 5 in a heartbeat to test it out. I have had access to Windows Phones in the past, but they didn't quite hit the mark for me. As long as I'd be able to revert the device to Android as I please, I'm all for it. Doing something like this truly adds value to the extortionate prices of most smartphones on the market.

Maybe they should try SUPPORTING the OS with things like Xbox live and a proper Skype client? Attatching documents in email replies? Really disappointing to see that all Microsoft can think of is appeasing android users instead of improving the OS and making it an attractive option.

I do like the idea of being able to install WP in any Android handset. It would make WP very much like big Windows, you can install it in any pc you want. Android works mostly on Qualcomm ARM cpus anyway, just like WP does, so it can't be very hard to add drivers for cpus from higher/lower positions of the same cpu lineup.

Xabier Granja said,
I do like the idea of being able to install WP in any Android handset. It would make WP very much like big Windows, you can install it in any pc you want. Android works mostly on Qualcomm ARM cpus anyway, just like WP does, so it can't be very hard to add drivers for cpus from higher/lower positions of the same cpu lineup.

That's what "changes everything a cross everywhere" sounds to me. Also the "we can do that" part.

Biggest feature I used to show off to people with my windows phone was the intergrated facebook/msn/sms messaging in the messages hub. People were impressed that I didn't need to care where the messages came from I just replied.

First they killed off Windows Live Messenger (msn) and now they've removed the facebook support.

If anything they should have been adding some API support for more integration, and at the very least there should have been Skype messaging built right into the messaging hub alongside Skype calls built right into the Call app.

It feels like a step backward every time I pick up my Windows Phones now.
If they're going down the route of 'there's and app for that', with facebook, Skype etc and then go and emulate things like android apps (poorly, emulation is always done poorly)...
On top of their poorly supported premium 'xbox branded' games that have been either just removed from the store after people have purchased them, or just don't work with achievements... then surely it's just easier for users to buy a native 'there's an app for that' iphone, or an android phone that works native with the android apps?

Agree. I understand their reasons but I can't help but think they could've kept that integration and built an API for apps to connect to - then you could've had WhatsApp, Kik etc etc also all in one message view. That (and silky smooth performance, which 8.1 is direly lacking) is the feature I miss the most.

Agreed, the Facebook integration in the People Hub was a killer feature. I literally had no reason to visit the Facebook site, and I had little need to open the Facebook app. Adding Skype would have taken things to another level.

Speaking of which I still don't see the need for a separate Skype app, it should be in the People Hub

The Message Hub is the most annoying thing in WP8.1. It is basically useless now. You will need to check 4 different apps now if you want to know what the conversation was. Seeing that Google is going down the route to integrate messaging together makes me wonder who this bright light was at Microsoft to decide to get rid of the integration.. The Windows Phone things Hub basically are piles of crap now

sagum said,
If anything they should have been adding some API support for more integration...

That is exactly what they did.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/7940/windows-phone-81-review

The app just has to be updated to support it now. The issue with the previous way things worked was it was locked down to facebook and twitter, and if Microsoft wanted to add more options, it would require an OS update. Now the app just needs to link to the api and it will show up.

Anandtech

When Windows Phone launched one of the major focal points was the People Hub, a single location for all of your contacts across all accounts/social networks. Previously you had to add accounts to Windows Phone in order for the People Hub to grab contacts from those accounts. With Windows Phone 8.1 Microsoft moves the People Hub from a push to a pull based service. If a 3rd party app supports it, all you need to do is login to the app itself and the People Hub will automatically pull in data from the app. Facebook is the best example of this as you no longer need to login to the Facebook app and then add your Facebook account separately to the People Hub. It's a subtle change but one that echoes Microsoft's new position on Windows Phone: rather than you conforming to Windows Phone, the OS should try and conform to you.

IceBreakerG said,

That is exactly what they did.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/7940/windows-phone-81-review

The app just has to be updated to support it now. The issue with the previous way things worked was it was locked down to facebook and twitter, and if Microsoft wanted to add more options, it would require an OS update. Now the app just needs to link to the api and it will show up.

The people hub is another issue, even with Facebook's API they've added is very poorly done. Before you could select a contact and view all their pictures directly from your people hub. Now you're limited to the select few that the Facebook app thinks you want to see and only limited to the news feed. Want to do anything else? a selction will load the Facebook app that is super slow, sluggish and doesn't even feel like it fits on a windows phone.

For the messages hub, there is no facebook app that makes use of an api. The best we get is system notifications, that only display part of the message. not sure why it's not sent to the message hub as a full message. Instead we're forced to load up the facebook app... or in Microsoft's own case (again, not one for setting or using their own standards) you have to load up Skype.

For someone who's been a long standing Windows Phone user, these every day activities I've been doing is a HUGE step back. It's seriously making me think why not just go to an Android or iOS device where the apps are done properly first time anyway rather then waiting for a poorly done port to Windows Phone that feels, and looks like android/iOS anyway.

Considering the massive market share of Windows in computer platform, the last point, Windows Phone as separate software seems the most feasible option there to increase the market share ten folds..

Android apps on WP should be something only accessible by 'experts'. It would be a way to convince power users to try out WP. Just in case there one day is a must-have app that isnt on WP then they can get the Android version.

However if they make android apps available to all from the store then they are organizing their own funeral. Part of what makes WP such a powerful platform is the unity both under the hood and in terms of Visuals through the OS and the apps.

Maybe allow you to side-load APKs but not have them on the store? Lots and lots of apps use Google Services though and those things won't work on WP.

mrp04 said,
Maybe allow you to side-load APKs but not have them on the store? Lots and lots of apps use Google Services though and those things won't work on WP.

Such as partner up with Amazon's app market place?

I guess Microsoft hasn't considered the obvious alternative of offering Windows Phone 7 apps as a single download inside Android.

By doing so, Microsoft would introduce the Android people into the WP world, just like they did with the Office app for iPad.

If you insist on an "all or nothing" approach for WP, people will opt with the nothing and bypass WP until "its mature enough" which, of course, never will happen precisely by the "catch-22" situation that has plagued Linux for decades. "Not enough users, makes porting economically inviable; not enough ports, makes users inviable".

Yes, because running Android apps really worked for Blackberry....

WP was late to the game and went in to a market saturated by iOS and Android. They will struggle for a while to gain marketshare. Just how it is. Doing things like this will just complicate things. WP is fine and will be fine.

THIS. WP is doing great now, and if they just keep doing what their doing and innovate further now, they'll do really well (many analysts have said it'll make have a big chunk of marketshare by 2016). That's why WP is the fastest growing mobile OS currently. BB tried that and it flopped big time. Keep things simple and fast and fluid, that's what made it beautiful to begin with.

Agreed here as well -- the best thing you can do is when you see an app that isn't available on Windows Phone.. email the vendor and ask for it. Companies only get motivated when they see demand, and if we increase our level of demand for things that don't exist, then they will come forward.

techbeck said,
Yes, because running Android apps really worked for Blackberry....

WP was late to the game and went in to a market saturated by iOS and Android. They will struggle for a while to gain marketshare. Just how it is. Doing things like this will just complicate things. WP is fine and will be fine.

I agree. Windows Phone has some great ideas for the future. It takes time to get into a saturated market. MS has to know that and is planning for that. MS has generally played the long term card over short gains card anyways. =)

j2006 said,
THIS. WP is doing great now, and if they just keep doing what their doing and innovate further now, they'll do really well (many analysts have said it'll make have a big chunk of marketshare by 2016). That's why WP is the fastest growing mobile OS currently. BB tried that and it flopped big time. Keep things simple and fast and fluid, that's what made it beautiful to begin with.

There doing great now? That's why I have a Nexus I guess. Because most apps do not scale to my 1520's phablet size screen, have poor functionality and aren't updated, are 8.0 apps that do not support 8.1 APIs let alone being a universal app. Its like being stuck with iOS 2 apps that do not support multitasking fully.

techbeck said,
Yes, because running Android apps really worked for Blackberry.....

Except Blackberry's implementation is to repackage.
With BluStacks and other means, I'm sure MS could support unmodified APK execution.

Sorry Shyatic and j2006, but Windows Phone IS NOT DOING WELL. All the "big chunk of the marketplace" illusions died at the end of last year. It has since peaked at 3% with no sign of improving.

At this rate it will not only become a niche product, but rather a failed opportunity, similar in nature 90's Origami PCs, or 80's era Electric cars. Both were good ideas that failed to attract enough customers to justify the expense. Another example that comes to mind is OS/2 and Advantix cameras.

Significant market failures not only impact the bottom line, but can propel a company into the red or into bankruptcy, even if it's a market leader (remember Kodak, Polaroid and RCA).