Microsoft’s invasion of Android phones just took a new turn. Up until now, the company has strong-armed device makers into pre-installing Microsoft apps on Android phones. With the Samsung Galaxy S8, however, Microsoft is selling its own version of the phone called the Samsung Galaxy S8 Microsoft Edition. (There’s also a Galaxy S8+ edition.)
The specialized phone comes with “Microsoft customization” that is applied when it’s unboxed and connected to Wi-Fi. Microsoft says the customization adds a “best-in-class productivity experience with Microsoft applications such as Office, OneDrive, Cortana, Outlook” and so on.
It sounds like these phones are just generic Galaxy S8 devices with a special script built-in that automatically download
s Microsoft’s various Android apps when you set it up. It’s not clear if Microsoft also download
s its Next Lock Screen as part of the experience.
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The Microsoft Edition phones are available for pre-order now and start shipping on April 21. You can’t order them online, however. They’re only available from Microsoft retail stores in the U.S. That suggests this is a trial program to gauge public interest in a Microsoft-centric Android phone. It’s not known if Microsoft has ambitions beyond that.
The story behind the story: The Galaxy S8 Microsoft Edition is an interesting turn of events for the company’s approach to Android. Samsung and Microsoft first signed a cross-license patent agreement in 2011 that resulted in Samsung paying licensing fees to Microsoft. A dispute over payments in 2015 changed that deal and although the terms of the new deal weren’t publicized, Samsung began pre-loading Microsoft apps on its phones and tablets soon after.
The deal with Samsung may have expired, forcing Microsoft to take a different approach. That’s just speculation, but the reality should become clearer if more Microsoft Edition Samsung phones show up in the coming years.