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A closer look at whether Microsoft could hijack Android for its own ends

Last December I wrote a piece in which I suggested that Microsoft embrace Android for Windows 8 and Windows Phone. I argued that Microsoft would never get the long-tail apps for Windows desktop or mobile platform, but there was a solid way to offer Android apps within the Windows framework.

I even suggested that it adopt the Bluestacks player and tunnel into the world of over a million Android apps. A user would not even know whether they were using an Android or Windows app. This would give Microsoft the long-tail apps it desperately needs to keep Windows 8 and Windows Phone viable in the future.

When I wrote that column, I was not aware of the work Nokia was doing to create a dedicated Android Phone (pictured above) using the Android Open System Platform (AOSP). But instead of offering Google's dedicated apps and services, Nokia installed Microsoft's services and cloud apps. We got to see this before it was introduced at Mobile World Congress in February, and I immediately realised that this was ground-breaking from a soon-to-be Microsoft company, and could have a lot of ramifications for Nokia and Microsoft in the near future.

While Microsoft has somewhat downplayed Nokia's Android phones and continues to say its mobile strategy is focused on Windows Phone, this move by Nokia could actually become a blueprint for how Microsoft embraces Android and makes it their own. While it would require Microsoft to eat some humble pie, I see the idea of bringing Android apps into the Windows ecosystem as a powerful way for it to extend its OS market reach and potential, and at the same time wrestle some control from Google in the process.

So, how could it do this? The simplest way would be to use the Bluestacks player and make it a tile in Windows 8 that connects it directly to the world of Android apps. And instead of tying the apps and services to Google Play, Redmond could instead create a dedicated Microsoft Android store and services area, and substitute anything that Google has in this space for Microsoft products.

All Android apps are written under the basic AOSP architecture but are currently tied to Google Play. However, it would not be difficult for Microsoft to create a Microsoft Android store and offer all Android app providers the APIs to hook into Microsoft's Android store – or just use Nokia's new Android store and funnel the apps through that. Android app vendors would be crazy not to support this since it expands their audience for apps and could get them more money for their paid apps. There are currently 150 million Windows 8 customers and another 280-290 million Windows 8 PCs are expected to ship in calendar 2014.

Microsoft could do the same thing on Windows Phone. In this case, it would use the core Windows Phone OS, which includes all of Microsoft's apps and services, and then use the Bluestack player to deliver the Android apps. This would mean that all Windows Phones would now also have access to a million-plus Android apps and the long-tail content and apps that Windows Phone desperately needs to grow.

Microsoft already makes money on Android due to license agreements with most of the Android hardware vendors now, and using this strategy it could pretty much hijack Android for its own purposes, a prospect that is just too delicious for Redmond not to consider.