Microsoft apps will soon come pre-installed on more Android devices thanks to 20 new partnerships the company has forged with tablet makers around the world. The group of global and regional partners, which includes LG, Sony, Haier and Wortmann, will pre-install Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive and Skype on devices in the near future.
Beyond that, it's mostly unclear when the manufacturers will be launching tablets with Microsoft's apps pre-installed. Sony is slated to start with its Xperia Z4 in the next 90 days, but Microsoft hasn't provided a timetable for the other manufacturers. LG, for its part, will include the apps on a new tablet sometime later this year. Going forward, manufacturers will have the freedom to pick which apps (if any) show up on a given tablet.
Tuesday's announcement means Microsoft is now working with 31 device manufacturers to pre-load applications on Android tablets. Earlier this year, the Redmond, Washington-based company announced similar deals with 11 manufacturers, including Dell and Samsung. Microsoft has also made inroads into the Android phone market, with Samsung pre-installing some of its apps on certain models of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.
Much like with the Galaxy S6, mobile carriers will have final control over which apps appear on the tablets they sell directly, further complicating matters.
"We expect more customers who purchase Android devices directly from the OEM will receive the pre-installed services and applications," a Microsoft spokeswoman said via email. "In the event a mobile operator chooses not to pre-install the MS Services and apps, customers still have access to these apps by easily downloading them from Google Play."
The move is the latest in the "mobile-first, cloud-first" strategy spearheaded by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Over the past year, the company has launched Office applications that expand the reach of its productivity suite beyond Windows devices to Android and iOS. It comes alongside another announcement Tuesday that Microsoft will be bringing its Cortana virtual assistant to other mobile platforms to accompany its appearance on the desktop in Windows 10.
Microsoft's success in partnering with Android OEMs to distribute its applications is interesting, considering that the company also collects billions of dollars in royalties from licensing patents that it claims Android infringes.
Nick Parker, a corporate vice president in Microsoft's Original Equipment Manufacturer division, called the deals a "cornerstone" of the company's cross-platform strategy, and said they would be a boon for manufacturers.
"By pre-installing Microsoft software and services solutions on Android tablets, our partners are able to increase the value of those devices by delivering the rich productivity experiences customers want," he said in a blog post announcing the deals.
In addition, Parker said that the applications would give manufacturers access to new revenue streams, though the company declined to provide concrete details on what that means.
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