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Microsoft's brave new world: Samsung, Android, and third-party software?

Cyanogen speculation

In January 2015 stories started appearing speculating that Microsoft might have been a lead investor in a new round of funding for Cyanogen, the company that produces Cyanogen Mod for Android. The idea behind this being that Microsoft was looking for yet another foothold in the Android market, especially as third-party modifications to Android are starting to become in vogue.

The funding deal didn't go through – Cyanogen picked up $110 million (around £75 million, AU$145 million) without Microsoft – but there is no smoke without fire and it is interesting that Microsoft was looking to invest in a service that The Verge described as having "no software, hardware, services, or anything that seems to be directly relevant to Microsoft".

By now it is clear that Microsoft is looking to expand horizontally into new sectors, updating various services on other operating systems before their own – Office for Mac has received a new version before Office on Surface – finally shifting focus from its own services to others if the move is more strategic and provides an ability to create profit.

Puzzle pieces

The final piece of the puzzle – started under Ballmer and finished under Nadella – could be the $7.2 billion (around £4.9 billion, AU$9.5 billion) purchase of Nokia. Prior to the deal being finalised, Nokia had just produced its first Android smartphone, the Nokia X, which ran a skinned version of Android that looked similar to Windows Phone in many ways. At the time I wrote that "Microsoft could actually benefit from Nokia's experimentation with Android" giving them new knowledge of the platform.

Microsoft has always produced software that runs on multiple manufacturers' hardware but has never used anybody else's software and we shall have to wait and see if that dynamic is going to change under Nadella. Producing software has been Microsoft's bread and butter and so shifting to distributing software made by others, or even hosting services on a large-scale on other's hardware – services that aren't Windows or Office for Mac – is a new step.