Last week Bloomberg News reported that Microsoft is trying to convince HTC that they should offer Windows Phone as a second option for consumers (in addition to Android) on their phones. The article said it "wasn’t clear whether an HTC phone would run Windows and Android at the same time, or let users choose a default," but if it is true and Microsoft does plan to allow side-by-side phone OSes at the same time, that could be huge for them.
The reason this matters is because running side-by-side phone OSes can be an effective way to get the "dual persona" on a mobile device that allows users to separate their "work" and "personal" environments.
Your first reaction might be to think that running two full OSes on a phone is crazy. (Think of it like the phone is a hypervisor which runs two mobile OS VMs.) It actually has some major advantages. The is that the "work" VM can be a full, normal (yet managed and encrypted) phone OS that could run all applications in an un-modified way. This addresses one of the main drawbacks of current MAM solutions in that (1) they require customers to obtain Android application binary files from the app maker in order to "wrap" them with the MAM management extensions, or (2) they only work with certain applications that the app makers have integrated with the MAM vendor's management APIs. (In other words, we have millions of Android apps in the world today, but only a tiny fraction of them can be used with today's MAM products.)
Side-by-side VMs on a mobile device can solve this. Users can have the "work" VM which is encrypted, remote wipeable, protected by strong authentication, and completely locked down, and there can be a "personal" VM where the users can go nuts with whatever applications and crapware they want. The hypervisor provides security, and a root kit on the personal VM can't traverse over to the work VM.
It's even possible to do a sort of "seamless windows" for mobile where the user is somewhat protected from the fact that they're running two different VMs.
Of course this concept is not new, as this is exactly what VMware does today with their Horizon Mobile product. The only real downside to Horizon Mobile's dual-VM approach is that it's only available on Android, (and we don't expect Apple to allow iOS to run side-by-side or in a phone VM anytime soon).
Of course we don't know exactly what Microsoft's plans are. In fact they may just be trying to offer Windows Phone for no cost and to get a one-time choice in front of users where they buy a phone and then push a button to select Android or Windows. But let's imagine for a moment that they're thinking about this side-by-side VM thing. How cool would that be? The personal side would be Android since that's so popular with consumers anyway, and then the work side would be Windows.
Microsoft can leverage the fact that people have a perception (true or not) that the Windows Phone OS works "better" with corporate environments than iOS or Android. Windows Phone has real(ish) Office. probably the best Exchange integration, SharePoint, Lync, and most everything else that enterprises need on a phone. Plus Microsoft has a great reputation for understanding the needs of the enterprise, (especially when compared to Google and Android).
Now think about all that in the context of the current market where the previous phone maker who most understood the enterprise (Blackberry) is imploding, and the door is wide open for Microsoft. And with a 3.7% market share in the mobile space, what have they got to lose?
So what do you think? Can Microsoft go down this path? Should they? Maybe VMware can bring this to market as an additional OS for Horizon Mobile? Would the leading Android phone makers (like Samsung) want to get on board with this, or will this be something that the second tier makers would bring to market?
My vote is that it would be awesome, and that Microsoft should do it.