A Microsoft version of Android would be a nightmare for everybody

The pros don't come close to outweighing the cons.

There’s talk about Microsoft embracing Android, either as a mobile OS topped by Windows features and services or by providing support for Android applications within Windows.

The benefits in the first case include attracting smartphone users who are reluctant to use Windows Phone and who are further put off by the dearth of Windows Phone apps.

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Benefits of the second again center on applications – supporting Android apps would give Windows customers more apps to choose from and more of the apps they want.

The big downside is how that might discourage developers from writing for Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone at all if they can write for the much larger pure Android market and address the Windows markets at the same time.

The success of the Android play assumes these ideas are readily implementable and wouuld result in devices on which the Android apps behave as they should. Nokia, which Microsoft is in the midst of buying, already has a smartphone based on Android queued up to be announced later this month, but reports say it won’t have access to Google Play Store apps. That will give the devices the same app supply problem Windows Phone and Windows 8.1 have.

So the upside of Microsoft Android devices is limited at best and would undo or abandon the considerable work Microsoft has done toward rationalizing its mobile operating systems so developers can write once (or close to once) for Windows Phone and Windows RT. And it would leave developers - whom the company has been wooing hard for two years to write for its mobile operating systems - really angry.

Further, it would undermine Microsoft’s long-term overarching goal of integrating all Microsoft devices through a set of cloud services. It would set a new course for the company that would be based on somebody else’s technology, not something Microsoft is likely to embrace.

Microsoft may have to address at some point the incursion of devices running operating systems other than Windows. Already Google is teaming up with VMware to tune VMware’s Horizon desktop as a service to Google’s Chromebooks. The result would be the ability to deliver inexpensive devices that support a Windows-like desktop on a platform with enterprise-grade security and management.

That potential threat doesn’t warrant Microsoft expanding its fledgling push into making mobile devices to include Android and possibly abandoning its Windows mobile strategy.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.

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