Microsoft’s dream of Windows conquering the smartphone market has all but fizzled out.
There wasn’t a single Microsoft-made flagship Windows phone released in all of 2016, with a strong possibility that 2017 will go the same way. All in all, Microsoft’s Windows phone operating systems are at less than 1% global market share.
So it’s noteworthy that, as ZDNet reports, Microsoft has partnered up with Samsung for customised versions of its just-unveiled Galaxy S8 — exactly the same price, hardware and Android operating system as the stock Galaxy S8 ($US750) and the larger S8+ ($US850), but with a few Microsoft-powered tricks up its sleeve.
A spokesperson tells Business Insider that, starting on April 21st, you’ll be able to buy this special Galaxy S8 from Microsoft’s retail stores in the US. When you turn it on and connect it to WiFi, it downloads and installs a whole mess of Microsoft’s existing Android apps for you, including Office, LinkedIn, OneDrive, the Cortana virtual assistant, and the Wunderlist to-do app.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is already looking like the best Android phone out there. And with this special edition, it will probably be the best Microsoft phone out there, too…at least, until and unless Microsoft releases its long-rumoured Surface Phone.
Plus, the Samsung Galaxy S8 actually lets you dock it to a monitor and use it like a full-on PC — something that’s actually a signature feature of certain Windows 10 Mobile smartphones, in a mode that Microsoft calls “Continuum.” And as The Verge’s Tom Warren points out, the Galaxy S8’s PC mode actually beats Microsoft’s Continuum in several key ways, including the ability to split-screen two apps.
This isn’t as crazy as it seems. As the PC industry continues to shrink, Microsoft is shifting its business instead to focus on cross-platform subscription services like Office 365. Using an Android phone as a funnel towards Office 365 feels weird after decades of Microsoft’s laser-focus on Windows, but it suits this new goal nicely.
Plus, Samsung and Microsoft are apparently best friends now, after settling a patent suit between them in 2015. Still, it’s a little weird that you’ll only be able to get this from Microsoft Stores, potentially limiting their availability to any but the absolute most devoted Microsoft fan.