Microsoft and the world’s third largest smartphone manufacturer, Xiaomi, have announced an upcoming program which will allow current owners of the Mi 4, which runs Android KitKat, to try Windows 10 on their handsets via a ROM which will replace Android. Microsoft will be running this program independently of Xiaomi, which implies that other phones from other companies could be on Microsoft’s conversion list.
Microsoft did not announce that the ROM will be available to more than one specific phone, but it is impossible for me to imagine this ROM staying put for long. Hackers will get this ROM into any phone with similar hardware pretty quickly I imagine. Microsoft and OEMs can already drop the OS onto Android phones (HTC M8), so this move shouldn’t come as a real surprise.
But what if Microsoft itself releases a generic ROM for Android users to flash onto their handsets? The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are off the table due to the Samsung CPU, but the LG Flex 2 and HTC One M9 could run the ROM with ease, as could basically any other Qualcomm based handset. This opens up a whole new user base for Microsoft.
Releasing a ROM for most Android handsets has several implications, not the least of which being that anyone who flashes this onto their phones will be voiding their warranty and potentially losing support for custom hardware features, such as fingerprint scanners and heart rate monitors.
On the flipside, many modding enthusiasts would likely leap at the chance to put Windows on their Android phone, and people feeling disheartened with Android could leap to Microsoft’s OS while keeping their existing handset.
Microsoft could also buy flagships in bulk and flash Windows 10 onto them itself and sell the phones in its own stores, or offer free conversion services for select phones.
Cyanogenmod likely won’t be happy with this news, but I imagine Google is even more upset. Here is Microsoft, with its scrappy third place OS, already sneaking itself onto Android phones with Office, OneDrive and a host of other apps, soon including Cortana, making a play to grab the entire phone away from Google. It could go nowhere, or it could be a very clever move to steal more market share from Google.