News broke earlier this month that CyanogenMod has met with Microsoft, seeking an investment to further their vision of an Android totally devoid of Google services, installed by OEM on devices. $70 million is the figure I’ve seen reported. But, with Microsoft itself developing a plethora of Android apps, including a lockscreen, why wouldn’t they attach a rider to their investment, insisting that their apps and services be on the platform? It makes a lot of sense.
So, let’s say Office, Outlook, OneDrive, and Skype are installed by default, or maybe they are placed prominently in the app store. I know, it’s not as exciting now as it would have been in 2013, so, let’s hit pause.
When Microsoft unveiled Cortana while showing off Windows Phone 8.1, they hinted that she might arrive on other platforms too. And arrive she has. She made her PC debut in January, on the Windows 10 Technical Preview. We can safely assume she will also touchdown on the Xbox One later this year, perhaps in October or November. Sony has nothing like Cortana in its stable, so this will serve to further differentiate the two consoles.
Microsoft has also never precluded iOS or Android. iOS wouldn’t make much sense, because she would be a second class citizen; an app to be launched, a better Bing app. Android would allow her to be almost a first class citizen however. If Google allowed a Cortana app to be included in the Play Store however, she likely wouldn’t be able to totally replace Google Now, thus she’d have a quasi-Cortana experience. She could toggle your wifi, send an email, set reminders, and maybe even add and remove things from Google Calendar, but you won’t be invoking her by saying “Hey, Cortana” nor will she integrate fully with the OS. She also won’t be automatically reminding you to pick up the dry cleaning next time you are near the laundry service.
Okay, unpause that CyanogenMod story now, because this is where both threads cross; Microsoft could build a Cortana experience which replicates the experience on its own platforms for CyanogenMod.
Google Now could be completely replaced by Cortana in CyanogenMod, because the goal of the CyanogenMod team is to make a better Android. An Android which has rid itself of Google’s multiple apps and services. Microsoft has already shown that it’s more than willing to build apps for Android, so this really is not far fetched. And with Cyanogen holding out the hat, Microsoft can probably get away with insisting that Bing is the default search engine, Outlook the default mail app, and Cortana be baked into the OS, ready to be enabled by the user, as it is on Windows Phone. I could even see a small team at Microsoft being devoted to just that.
So, when do I think this could materialize? I would guess that after Windows 10 is a year old, Microsoft would feel comfortable bringing Cortana to third-party platforms like CyanogenMod, which pose no real threat to their handset business for now. Perhaps we will hear news of this sooner, but I don’t think Microsoft wants to announce that Cortana is on CyanogenMod before the first Windows 10 commercials hit the airwaves.