Would you buy a dual-boot phone that runs both Windows Phone and Android? It looks like Microsoft ( MSFT -0.15% ) is about to find out.
In just a few months, a new phone that can run both Windows Phone and Android willl hit the shelves, at least in India, according to a recent report in the Times of India.
It's the latest indication that Microsoft might be open to finding ways that it can benefit by using Android. However, since a dual-boot phone is likely to underperform, don't look to this development to significantly boost Windows Phone market share.
The publication quotes the chairman of Karbonn Mobiles, a phone maker that appears to primarily serve the Indian market, saying that Microsoft eased restrictions around using Windows Phone, enabling a dual-boot phone. Karbonn is working on both a single-boot Windows Phone device as well as one that runs both operating systems, according to the report.
Microsoft declined to confirm the Times of India report.
A Windows Phone/Android device might have some benefits for users. Windows Phone has a unique user interface that some people prefer. Plus, it is likely to have slightly better versions of some Microsoft products, like Office. But its biggest shortcoming is app selection. Running Android on a Windows Phone means users could take advantage of Android apps.
A dual-boot phone could encourage people who were on the fence about Windows Phone because of the apps situation to take the leap. If a dual-boot phone drives sales of Windows Phones, Microsoft may be more successful attracting more apps to its platform. That could ultimately drive more sales of stand-alone Windows Phones down the line.
However, running two full operating systems on a phone is likely to have some significant performance problems. Such problems are the reason that some people say that VMware hasn't had much success selling its mobile virtualization platform that runs two versions of Android on a single phone -- one for personal use and one for corporate use.
It's also significant that this story involves a little-known phone maker. Perhaps the larger manufacturers don't see a lot of value in the idea. Late last year, Bloomberg reported that Microsoft approached HTC with a similar Windows Phone/Android device idea. Once a powerhouse, HTC now lags far behind its mobile phone maker rivals. Since that October report, not much has been said, including at the recent Mobile World Congress conference, about an HTC dual-boot phone.
Whether or not a dual-boot phone materializes, the reports show that Microsoft may be working hard to experiment with ways that it can use Android to its advantage. Nokia recently announced its first phone running on Android. While it's uncertain whether Microsoft will continue to support that effort once its acquisition of Nokia is complete, it could find some benefit in a tailored Android phone. For instance, it could attract users with the Android OS but build in many of its own Microsoft apps. That could drive revenues for Microsoft.
Given Windows Phone's position in the market -- a very distant third place -- it would be wise for Microsoft to get creative with ways to boost share. Piggybacking on Android one way or another could be one way to do that.
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