Author(s): Peter Bryer
Earlier in September, Microsoft acquired Double Labs, the developer of Android lock screen app Echo Notification. The app allows users to personalize their Android devices by displaying more information on the locked screen. The acquisition was a relatively low-profile for Microsoft, first reported by Business Insider then later confirmed by Microsoft to other media outlets.
The news of the acquisition was initially perplexing, with many wondering why Microsoft would want to own a popular Android productivity app. Developers of utility apps like Double Labs look to fill in gaps in the Android user experience, improving the platform's overall capability, and this helps Android to become a more attractive choice for consumers. It would appear that Microsoft is supporting Android at the cost of Microsoft Windows Phone sales.
The reality of the market is quite different, of course. Android has a global share of about 85 percent and a near monopoly in some developing markets. An installed base of 1.4 billion active Android devices means it's impossible for any competitor to pretend Android doesn't have the influence it enjoys (see Instant Insight: Google Unveils New Nexus and Chromecast Devices).
At a similar time to the purchase of Double Labs, Microsoft also released its Send app for Android —a compact e-mail client which the company says makes e-mail "feel like texting".
Apps like Echo and Send provide Microsoft exposure to users measured in the billions. Android is the world's widest playground, and provides Microsoft an opportunity to learn about user behaviour as it improves the experience of its own operating systems.
This is a clear reflection of the broader strategy shift at Microsoft. The full Office suite is now available on Android (and iOS), and these additional developments underline its commitment to a more horizontal strategy.
On 1 September, we wrote about the introduction of Amazon's Android app store, Underground (see Daily Insight: Underground Movement). The company's message is "we'll beat them at their own game", and it plans to do so by giving away a lot of free stuff. Amazon's endeavours to establish its own smartphone platform have been unsuccessful, so, for now, there's no exposure like Android.
We expect that Microsoft and other Google competitors will continue to embed themselves further into Android. Microsoft is no stranger to cross-platform development, though the company also has a history of swiftly combatting threats to its cash cows, having previously acknowledged competing platforms like Linux with less cooperative approaches. Microsoft is becoming part of Google's mobile ecosystem by acquiring and developing apps for Android. The operating system is an industry bedrock, and there are few other places left to stand.