Call it the robot bear hug. Microsoft announced today that its Android hardware manufacturer (OEM) program that sees Office apps pre-installed on new hardware has been expanded to 20 new companies. According to the software company, there are now 31 "partners" in the program. The play is simple: Microsoft wants its apps and services to win on every platform, and to do so, it wants space on every device's home screen. If you don't control the platform that is quickly becoming the most important platform ever, you have to play. But if one of your key competitors owns the platform in question, you might need new friends. Say, the firms that actually distribute the platform via their tablet hardware. Voilà, access. Here's the official statement: These 31 partners will offer Android tablets pre-installed with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive and Skype in the near future. They will be available on a new LG tablet, and Sony will include them on their Xperia Z4 tablet in the next 90 days. The new partnerships will continue the early success of the company's push to bring Office to iOS and Android. Microsoft is pushing Office onto every major platform, ensuring that one of the key cash sources has the largest potential market to sell into. Microsoft is, of course, planning similar work for its own Windows 10 platform, an operating system that is still the crux of its corporate soul. Office and Windows remain as Microsoft as internal bickering apple pie, even as Azure, Skype for Business, Office 365 and other service offerings take on larger roles at the company. The new deals are global in scale, targeting Asian, Latin American and European markets. That implies that Microsoft will pick up new users across the globe. The deals can't be free. I've asked Microsoft for more context around who is paying whom. I expect from them a polite refusal to comment.
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