Microsoft acquired Nokia when the latter was well past its days of dominance, and struggling to be noticed in a field with leaders such as Apple and Samsung. Nokia Lumia phones were praised for their quality but they arrived late to the party, and didn't sell enough to make a mark in a highly competitive field.
Now Microsoft's Satya Nadella is shaking things up by trying a new approach for the mobile division. Already, Microsoft operating system-run phones are made by Samsung and HTC and not just Nokia. Next innovation: running Windows 10 on Xiaomi's Android phones, which have been a hit in China and India. If users like the experience, Microsoft will hope many more will switch to its software from Android, without having to change their phones.
This would be the first time that the company will try this approach. A select group of Xiaomi Mi 4 power users will be invited to help test Windows 10 and contribute to its future release later this year. Microsoft would expect them to download the Windows 10 Technical Preview and provide feedback. Microsoft would take that into account before a wider launch of Windows 10 this summer.
Xiaomi, one of the world's hottest startups, is the only one with whom Microsoft is partnering for this test run. One reason might be that its users are used to providing feedback on its weekly software updates and might be more proactive than users of other phones. Microsoft said it is also tying up with others in China, such as Lenovo, Tencent and Qihu to offer free upgrades to Windows 10. The company is hoping that this version is way more popular than the last.
Converting an Android phone into Windows will require a Windows-based ROM. It might operate in a similar way as Cyanogen and other similar custom ROMs. This will allow Microsoft to offer a Windows experience on Android phones. China is a good market to test this, because customers there are more used to custom ROMs unlike those in the United States or Europe.
Running Windows on Android is a pretty powerful concept. And that in itself shows how the company is thinking differently than before. We will know in the summer if it works.