It's fair to say that in 2019, Microsoft is "all-in" on the Android platform thanks to its efforts like the Microsoft Launcher, Edge, and Office, all first-class experiences on Android smartphones around the world.
I'm glad Bowden wrote this post. I've been wanting to.
Longtime readers of my blog will know that I liked Windows Phone very much. I bought a Lumia for testing and immediately fell in love with the device and OS. If only it had apps! It was the only thing holding it back.
Today, if Microsoft decided to do what Bowden is suggesting, that wouldn't be an issue. Android has tons of apps. And so many of Microsoft's own apps are already first-class citizens on Android (as well as built to be cross platform from the ground up).
Bowden points out Launcher, Edge, and Office as Microsoft's strongest efforts on Android. But that isn't all of them. Your Phone, which he mentions later in his post, is also a big piece. Not to mention OneDrive, Skype, and a myriad of apps. They are all very good experiences on Android already.
I wouldn't be surprised if there are people internally at Microsoft thinking about this very idea right now, weighing up whether it's worth trying. Does Microsoft want to put money into researching and developing a new smartphone, while also maintaining its own Android ROM, updates, and paying Google for a Play Store license?
This is a given. They have already been doing this for years. Microsoft R&D is one of the largest, most expensive R&D departments in the world. Has been for decades. They shed off billions of dollars per year in R&D. And they aren't slowing down.
Also, do you think Panos Panay hasn't already prototyped 10 or 20 or 50 different designs of Surface Phone by now? Of course he has!
One other area I will disagree with Bowden. He writes:
This isn't a bad thing, but an Android smartphone wouldn't be the worst idea Microsoft has ever had, especially if it keeps expectations low and doesn't make any huge bets on it.
Microsoft was recently valued as the most valuable company to ever exist on planet earth. (Alongside Amazon and Apple.) Keep expectations low? Don't make a huge bet?
Steve Jobs passed away 10 years ago. Jony Ive is leaving Apple. Huawei has regulatory issues I can't even dream of. Samsung's devices are months behind on Android updates and one of their recent models exploded in people's hands. And Google's Pixel has yet to have a foothold.
I say Microsoft should swing for the fences. They should come out with Windows Phone again, base it on Android, call it a Surface Phone and set expectations at Panos Panay levels. That is; pumped.