Microsoft has been working more closely with Samsung lately, which has become increasingly evident from the launch of the new Galaxy S8 smartphone line this week.
With both companies trying to gain advantages over Apple and Google, the dominant forces in mobile ecosystems, the growing partnership makes strategic sense. Google’s (GOOGL) Android software runs on four out of five smartphones worldwide, and Apple’s iOS runs most of the remainder. So Microsoft and Samsung can benefit by finding ways to depend more on each other and less on the two mobile giants.
At Samsung’s S8 event in New York on Wednesday, the company promoted its phone desktop adapter, the DeX, by noting that Microsoft had updated its Office apps for Android to work properly with the new feature. That followed last year’s deal to put Windows software on some of Samsung’s tablets and a 2015 agreement to pre-install mobile apps like Skype and OneNote on Galaxy phones.
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On Thursday, Microsoft said it would sell special versions of the S8 and S8+ directly in its U.S. retail stores. The Microsoft-sold phones are customized to make the Microsoft apps more prominent on the home screen and include access to more apps from the software giant than the standard S8 models sold elsewhere, such as apps for LinkedIn and Wunderlist, the company said.
“A Microsoft customization is applied to the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ Microsoft Edition when the devices are unboxed and connected to Wi-Fi,” the company said in a statement. “This customization ensures customers a best-in-class productivity experience with Microsoft applications such as Office, OneDrive, Cortana, Outlook and more.”
Microsoft’s moves to cozy up to Samsung and its Android ecosystem of phones won’t help sales of Microsoft’s own flagging mobile devices running versions of Windows 10. If anything, it hurts them by making it just as easy for Microsoft app users to opt for a Galaxy phone instead of a Windows phone.
But that battle looks long over. Windows share of smartphones worldwide dropped to an almost unmeasurable 0.3% at the end of 2016, down from an already minuscule 1.1% a year earlier, according Gartner.
And the moves are consistent with CEO Satya Nadella’s strategy of moving Microsoft more towards providing software for cloud and mobile-based computing uses regardless of the underlying operating system. After all, one of Nadella’s first moves after taking charge in 2014 was to release a version of Office for Apple’s (AAPL) iPad.
Everything You Need to Know About the Samsung Galaxy S8:
The new special S8 versions are limited to Microsoft (MSFT) stores, which means they won’t have a huge impact in the market, notes Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. But it shows at least one way Microsoft is aiming to compete in mobile.
“It’s interesting to see Microsoft deepening its investment in Android at a time when its own mobile devices continue to be all but irrelevant,” Dawson writes.