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Microsoft’s new scheme could become Google’s worst Android nightmare

Updated Mar 18th, 2015 2:45PM EDT
Windows 10 ROM for Android

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Microsoft has had a tough time in the mobile market, where it has to face both Google’s impressive market share and Apple’s best-selling iPhones at the same time. But the company is far from throwing in the towel. Instead, Microsoft is already working on making its software available to as many users as possible, and coming up with of clever new ways to fight Android.

Now, the company may have inadvertently revealed a very sneaky plot to steal market share from Google.

FROM EARLIER: This is when you’ll get your full free Windows 10 download

Instead of only pitching very affordable low- and mid-range devices that come with some impressive software bundles, the company is apparently also thinking about taking over existing Android devices. That’s right, it appears Microsoft has found a way to install Windows 10 on Android handsets, which would be an awesome way to compete against Google.

In an announcement detailing Windows 10 launch plans and partnerships in China that should help users install Windows 10 on their machines as fast as possible, the company also unveiled an unexpected partnership with Xiaomi – a company that makes only Android-based devices – which will let some power users experience Windows 10 Technical Preview on the Mi 4 flagship handset (image above).

Essentially, that means Microsoft has found a way to install a Windows 10-based ROM on Android devices, complete with its own mobile software offerings, including Cortana, Office, OneDrive, Skype and more. The company has not explained exactly how it has accomplished this and it’s not clear whether it plans to offer dual-boot Android/Windows features to users, but the concept is certainly interesting.

“As part of the Windows Insider Program, Microsoft will partner with Xiaomi to offer Windows 10 free downloads to a select group of Xiaomi Mi 4 users. Xiaomi Mi 4 users will get the ability to flash their phones with the new Windows 10 OS and provide feedback to Xiaomi and Microsoft on their experience,” Microsoft said in a statement. “This partnership will allow Xiaomi and Microsoft to get direct user feedback and continue to improve the experience for China. Microsoft is thrilled to see Xiaomi embracing Windows 10 and offering this great value to their customers. We’re excited to see the feedback we receive from this audience.”

As soon as Windows 10 is available on Xiaomi’s Mi 4, it’ll probably be a matter of time until developers are able to port it to other Android devices, at which point a plethora of Android devices might be able to install Microsoft’s most important mobile operating system yet.

UPDATE: Xiaomi will not work directly with Microsoft on this particular Windows 10-related project, the company told BGR in a comment. Instead, Microsoft will collaborate directly with Mi 4 owners.

“This is an experimental program entirely led by Microsoft, working directly with select members of our Xiaomi fan community in China,” a Xiaomi spokesperson said. “Microsoft will create a custom build of Windows 10 and provide it to select Mi 4 power users who are already familiar with re-flashing their devices with custom ROMs. This is not a commercial partnership announcement and Xiaomi continues to fully embrace the Android ecosystem through our MIUI software platform.”

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.