Microsoft shakes up Windows Phone with dual-boot Android hybrids and free licenses
American smartphone fans hoping for an Android-Windows Phone dual-boot device no longer need to look at India's Karbonn Mobile with envy. Huawei plans to release a dual-boot smartphone loaded with Google's and Microsoft's operating systems in the U.S. this spring.
“We think the dual OS can be a new choice for the consumer. It will be on sale in the US in Q2," Huawei marketing chief Shao Yang told Trusted Reviews Thursday.
Since its introduction in 2010, Microsoft has struggled to gain a foothold in the U.S. with Windows Phone. Some have argued that Windows Phone recently turned a (very, very small) corner worldwide. But in the U.S. Microsoft's mobile OS remains more or less irrelevant with only 3.2 percent U.S. market share, according to the latest numbers from metrics firm comScore.
While it's a long shot, bundling Windows Phone with Android could expose the OS to more users. It might even convince some users to choose Windows Phone over Android as their primary OS—though slapping two different operating systems on a single device doesn't exactly sound user-friendly.
Time to try something new
Bundling Windows Phone with Android may also be only one of several experiments Microsoft is trying to get its mobile OS in front of more people. The company is reportedly offering Windows Phone for free to two phone makers in India, according to Times of India. In other words, these two companies—Karbonn and Lava—won't have to pay licensing fees to Microsoft for Windows Phone, in a radical departure from Microsoft's traditional modus operandi.
As an emerging market with a healthy tech sector, India is a good market to try out giving away Windows Phone for free to device makers. The phones will likely be low-cost Windows Phone and not Lumia-style flagship devices. Remember: Microsoft thinks phones are the key to everything digital.
There's no word on whether Microsoft is going to offer Windows Phone for free in other parts of the world. There were reports in October that HTC might be getting Windows Phone without having to pay any licensing fees.
You get a freebie, and you get a freebie
Free software is becoming something of a theme with Microsoft. Recent reports said the company is also mulling the idea of giving away Windows 8.1 for free to users who haven't yet upgraded from Windows 7. The company would then hope to pull users into its ecosystem of online services that can be monetized such as Xbox Music, OneDrive, and Bing search.
Microsoft's reasons for offering Windows and Windows Phone for free (whether to manufacturers or users) can likely be traced back to Google. The search giant offers its software for free to manufacturers including Android as well as Chrome OS for laptops.
All that free software has turned Android into the world's most dominant mobile OS, and given Chrome OS a (small) foothold in the PC market. Microsoft, which has spent most of its existence selling software, is now trying to figure out how to confront Google's approach on mobile and in the PC market.
Trying out software giveaways may be part of that experimentation.