Windows Phone-Android dual boot devices: Not as crazy as you might think

Reports say Microsoft is considering allowing Windows Phone-Android dual boot phones, as well as a variety of other combinations of Windows Phone and Android coexisting on the same device. Crazy, yes. But is it really as crazy as it first seems?

The Information claims it has seen an internal Microsoft document that details potential plans for a variety of ways for Windows Phone and Android to work on the same hardware. (If you don't subscribe to The Information, you can get a summary of the document on Windows Phone Central.)

In one scenario, someone buying a smartphone would buy the device, and only afterwards decide whether he wanted it to run Windows Phone or Android. That operating system would then be installed on the device, and that's the only one available on it from then on.

Also discussed are including both Windows Phone and Android on the same device, for example, for dual-booting, or instantly switching between the two. The document also mentions eliminating licensing fees for Windows Phone altogether. The document says, though, that any device that could run both Windows Phone and Android would have to run on Qualcomm chips.

How far-fetched is all of this? Not quite as far-fetched as you might think. Let's start with the simplest, having Microsoft stop charging licensing fees for Windows Phone. This was already reported back in early December. It makes some sense. Google, after all, gives away Android for free, and that's worked quite well. If Microsoft gave away Windows Phone, it would make money because a variety of Microsoft services would be the default on the devices, such as Bing for search and SkyDrive for storage. And the devices would include other Microsoft services, such as Skype.

As for the dual operating scenario on a single device, there's already some precedent for it, although with Windows and Android, not Windows Phone and Android. The Asus Transformer Book Trio is a tablet-PC combo that includes both Android and Windows on it. And Asus just announced at CES the Asus Transformer Book Duet, a convertible laptop-tablet hybrid that lets you instantly switch between Windows 8.1 and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Also at CES, Intel has announced a dual OS platform which can run Windows and Android on the same device.

So clearly, Microsoft is open to other operating systems co-existing on PCs and tablets. Does that mean that it will do the same for smartphones as well? It's certainly possible, but I'm not quite sure that it's likely, at least not yet. A dual-boot phone sounds like a last-resort to me, something that Microsoft might try if all else fails. I think Microsoft will first see if its purchase of Nokia pays off by significantly increasing Windows Phone market share. If not, I wouldn't be that surprised to see Android and Windows Phone on the same devices.

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