Microsoft Loves Up On Android?

In a stunning announcement this week, Microsoft's newest company Nokia announced at the Mobile World Congress a sleek new line of smartphones running Google's open source Android operating system. Trust me, that this is an IT earthquake and potentially the beginning of a new, open, modern Microsoft.

Famously, Microsoft not only hated open source, it aggressively tried to kill it. It actively worked against 'open', taking open source companies to court and generally doing everything it could to make it difficult to be successful in open source.

This campaign was a huge failure, of course, as open source Linux and Android dominate the IT world, shipping more than a billion units in 2013 and dwarfing the number of new Windows installs.

Windows Phone, for example, has been a huge disappointment for Microsoft with a 4 percent market share globally.

Microsoft declared in 2013 that they were no longer a software company or a Windows-only operating system company, but instead a "Devices and Services" company.

At the time no one really knew what that meant. This Nokia announcement is the first indication that the behemoth that is Microsoft is beginning to morph into something new. For us tech watchers, this is a big, big, deal.

The clear goal is to steer users toward Microsoft services like Bing, OneDrive, Outlook and, of course, Office because this new Nokia device will point users to these Microsoft services and away from Google's dominating versions of search, mail, etc.

Microsoft is leveraging Nokia's still strong brand to sell great but low cost hardware in growth markets around the world in order to introduce Microsoft web services and apps to the next billion users.

Devices and Services. it's way to soon to declare a success, but at least now it begins to makes sense.

Apple remains firmly in the premium, high margin hardware business (See, Why are we still buying iStuff?) and is lousy at web services.

Google services rule the mobile world and their hardware partners (Samsung, Nexus, HTC, etc) mostly aim at the mid and lower tier price points.

Android hardware is 'ok' but much of the low-end phones are pretty junk actually.

Nokia's strong brand and excellent hardware chops + Android OS + Microsoft services just might be able to crack the Apple / Google (Samsung) duopoly that has ruled the mobile market for the past 5 years.

Less than two months into the new year - Facebook splashing out $19billlion on an app, and Microsoft embracing Android - 2014 looks to be a great year in tech!


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