October 22, 2021

Windows and Android: How Good is Microsoft’s Strategy Really?

Windows and Android: How Good is Microsoft's Strategy Really?

Since Microsoft discontinued the general further development of Windows 10 Mobile a few years ago and also ended it at the beginning of this year, the other platforms from Apple and Google have increasingly come into focus. While the possibilities with iOS and iPadOS are naturally rather limited, Microsoft has invested all the more in the Android ecosystem and also launched its own dual screen device with the Surface Duo, which for at least three years with monthly updates and new features should be supplied.

But in Redmond, too, relatively many resources are invested in the Android platform. This ranges from individual projects such as Microsoft Launcher and Your Phone to functions such as Timeline and an intensive partnership with Samsung, which produces exclusive functions and integrations in some areas that otherwise only the Surface Duo has in part. The question is: how sustainable is this strategy? So it’s time to take a closer look.

The legend of the Surface Phone

Basically, Microsoft has all options under Android so that users can put together a real Microsoft smartphone from the individual apps. There is the Microsoft Launcher, Microsoft Edge as a possible standard browser, Microsoft SwiftKey as a keyboard, the integrations into the Xbox ecosystem and of course the usual suspects such as the Office apps, Skype, OneDrive and various games such as Minecraft and Forza Street. The whole thing should be rounded off by Windows functions such as Timeline, Your Phone or the Cloud Clipboard, but it is precisely at these points that the construct is gradually shaking.

Microsoft had taken the first steps this year that may indicate a more flexible strategy. First timeline was from the Microsoft launcher removed , which makes the same obsolete the appropriate counterpart to Windows 10th A replacement for Android is currently not planned, so removing it from Windows should only be a matter of time. Even with the clipboard anything could do . So far, this function has been tied exclusively to Samsung and the Surface Duo via Your Phone, with an integration in SwiftKey it would at least make it accessible to a larger audience.

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The partnership with Samsung

Now it is basically to be welcomed if the two dominant companies from the respective areas get together and their respective services can interact with one another. With Your Phone in particular, this is also becoming a problem for Microsoft, which is comparable to the former partnership with Amazon for Cortana and Alexa or Mozilla’s dependence on Google.

Certain functions such as screen mirroring, the clipboard or the RCS support not only leave tablets out, due to their structure, apart from the Surface Duo, they are currently also exclusively tied to the majority of Samsung smartphones.

In order for the cooperation between Windows 10 and Android to leave a good impression in the long term, Microsoft must also expand the range for these functions and get more OEMs on board. Due to the trade conflict with China, the involvement of Oppo, Xiaomi or Honor would be associated with risks that do not necessarily have to be reduced under the new President Joe Biden, who is more reserved about China himself. Other OEMs such as Nokia, LG, Sony or Fairphone would be more reliable, but also significantly smaller. In addition, there have been no positive signals in this direction from these companies. So Microsoft has to come up with something if Samsung is not to remain the only lifeline.

Your Phone’s weaknesses

The functionality of Your Phone is not necessarily small in other respects either. With SMS support, local photo sync, notifications, continue on PC, battery charge status or calls, Microsoft has already implemented some features that can be used by everyone. Apart from the fact that there are also problems with the reliability of the app, the question is also whether Windows itself does not make Your Phone superfluous in many respects. As with Project Latte , here too, Microsoft could in many cases fall back on technically better solutions.

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Recently, the notifications in the background were brought back in Microsoft Edge , and Microsoft, like other Chromium browsers, could also use the options here to implement the sending of links via the options integrated in Chromium. For calls, Skype was recently integrated more deeply into the individual Microsoft projects with Meet Now, and Microsoft Teams was expanded to include new functions.

If you add other things, the number of features that are available to everyone and that would necessarily have to run on Your Phone would actually shrink to a few, rather marginal things. The real added value only comes from the more exclusive functions, the spread of which is very much inhibited by the various circumstances.

So what to do

The concept of Your Phone is anything but new. With KDE Connect, the KDE community has had a project in its ranks for a long time, which implements many of the functions of Your Phone and does not have to be tied to any Android OEMs. A separate version for Windows has been in the works for a long time and here too there was a project with Roamit earlier, which implemented at least individual functions such as the clipboard. So what added value the partnership with Samsung actually offers if the distribution of certain functions cannot reach other OEMs must also be questioned in the long term.

It would be good if Microsoft would take more of its options into its own hands again, use other options and also discontinue functions such as timeline that were obviously not accepted. In addition, own options were left behind in the past, for example by not rolling out their own SMS Organizer globally for Android and implementing SMS and RCS support for Your Phone. This may require a partnership with Google at one point or another, but in view of the large areas in which the two already cooperate and the fact that Chrome OS has never reached the mass market, one would be closed to the overwhelming power of Apple’s This is also the best way to oppose the system.

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Of course, not everything is bad, but things can also work better in many places and it is hard to imagine that Panos Panay, as Surface and Windows boss, can be so satisfied with the current situation. We will certainly see at least some of the changes Microsoft will actually make in the coming year. In any case, there are first signs that something is happening.