Yesterday it was widely reported that Microsoft and Cyanogen, Inc. inked a deal that would see a Microsoft app and services stack replace the Google equivalent on future devices powered by Cyanogen OS. In other words, Outlook instead of Gmail, Skype instead of Hangouts, Office instead of Docs and so on.
OnePlus One users will surely be furious over this news, but here’s something that may surprise you: I really don’t have a problem with it.
That’s not to say that I’m suddenly going to give up my Google apps for Microsoft ones—far from it. I do, however, see this as good news for users, and further support for the argument I made a while back that Android had become the industry standard for mobile devices.
Anyone who understands how Android came to be the world’s dominant smartphone OS will already know that its most common implementation consists of two parts: a proprietary Google application and services stack on a very open-source AOSP base. There are already at least two popular non-Google Android distributions that come to mind—Xiaomi with their unique app store plus Baidu-powered services and, closer to home, Kindle Tablets running the Amazon AppStore. Is one more commercial distribution of Android really such a bad thing?
It helps that Microsoft’s mobile apps are getting really good. Outlook, for example, is widely regarded as the best app for Gmail on iOS. I just installed the Android version on my tablet and would agree that it’s pretty slick. It also helps that Microsoft has been doing web-based services longer than Google has; if I’ve understood my Wikipedia entries correctly Exchange Server and OWA pre-date Gmail and Google Calendar by at least a few years.
For true fandroids there will still be the community-driven CyanogenMod and, if the user so chooses, the appropriate gapps zip. Perhaps at some point in the future someone in the modding community will extract the Microsoft stuff from a Cyanogen OS device and post them somewhere as an alternate app and services stack. I wouldn’t have a problem with that, either. The more choice, the better, right?