New reports suggest that Microsoft is now considering giving Windows Mobile away to OEMs for free, ending the licensing deal that garnered them about $30 per handset. This move would align Microsoft with Google, giving away their mobile platform for free while driving business to other revenue streams. This is only part of a series of moves being considered by operating systems chief Terry Myerson, along with bringing back the Start menu.
This encompasses Windows RT and Windows Phone, according the The Verge. By giving away the software to OEMs, Microsoft hopes to bring in additional patners as well. A subsidy in the face of Android’s open source nature is a tough proposition, and Windows is at an odd crossroads. Apple will continue with their game plan, remaining proprietary in both hardware and software. Windows, however, needs direction.
They recently purchased their top mobile partner’s hardware branch, giving them their own brand with which to design and manufacture devices. That drew instant comparisons to Apple, and rightfully so. With the choice to make the OS free to OEMs, they’re once again fence-sitting when they can least afford to.
On one hand, it will make WP more attractive to OEMs. The likes of HTC — or even new blood — can make a device, put whatever OS they like (save for iOS, of course) on it, and do what they do best. The pitfalls come with market share, and ecosystem. Apple’s iOS is the clear winner when it comes to apps and other mobile offerings, with Google’s Android coming up strong. As iTunes and the Play Store grow daily, Windows is left trying to make their 3.5% market share seem attractive to developers. That also doesn’t take into account the lack of customization we’d get with Windows Phone, which is a nice touch for Android.
We like this in theory, but it’s also about 5 years too late. Had this come at a time when both Android and windows were at a stage of finding their way, we’d applaud this as competitive. In 2013, it smacks as more of the same from Microsoft: they missed the mobile boat.