Microsoft’s next mobile strategy is to make iOS and Android better

Microsoft hasn’t had a great time with mobile. While we can debate whether or not Windows Phone is finally dead, Microsoft is certainly ready to move on. After missing the mobile boat, Microsoft is now trying to sneak onto iOS and Android devices like a stealthy submarine. We’ve seen the company focus on iOS and Android apps before, but at the Build event in Seattle this week the message is clear: Microsoft is finally being realistic.

Microsoft’s new push is to convince Windows users it can help them resume activities and apps even if they’re using an iPhone or Android device. The idea is simple: it doesn’t matter what devices you’re using in the Microsoft world as long as one of them is Windows. Microsoft has a number of different tricks to try and make this a reality, and it truly believes it can help make iOS and Android devices better as a result.

I sat down with Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore during an unusually sunny day in Seattle this week to try and understand the company’s latest mobile efforts. Belfiore returned to Microsoft after a year out traveling the world with his family. To many, he is the face of Windows Phone, an operating system he championed and helped nurture to life. A year of traveling the world will have a profound effect on anyone, but Belfiore also used this time to experiment heavily with other platforms. He’s tweeted his quirky hairdos with an iPhone, visited schools thousands of miles from Microsoft’s headquarters in Seattle, and generally experienced life away from a town where you’ll see people walking around in Cortana t-shirts while using Windows Phones. His journey let him see a world most of Microsoft doesn’t; Seattle itself is often a weird bubble that’s too influenced by Microsoft to properly reflect reality.


Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore

Belfiore seems to get it more than ever now, and Microsoft is reacting. Belfiore set out a scenario of a typical Windows user to me, and one that uses multiple devices that aren’t always powered by Windows. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella predicts that at some point everyone is going to have an average of six devices they use regularly, and Microsoft knows most of them won’t be running Windows. Microsoft’s response is to make experiences on iOS and Android devices better. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s a lot more useful to the average Windows user than trying to sell them a Windows-powered phone.

Microsoft is unveiling a number of new features in Windows 10 today that will improve the experience of moving content to devices like an iPhone or Android handset. You could argue that many of these new features are inspired by Apple’s macOS, but Microsoft isn’t trying to lock you into its ecosystem to make use of them. Right now, it’s a little complicated if you want to use a Windows laptop and an iPhone or Android device. Microsoft has a variety of apps for these…

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