Microsoft signs deal to pre-install apps on Android handsets

Microsoft has signed an agreement with Chinese electronics company, Xiaomi, to pre-install several of its apps on "millions" of Android handsets.

As part of the deal, Xiaomi will include Microsoft Office and Skype on its Android-powered smartphones and tablets, which will predominantly be sold in China, India and other countries in the Far East and South America.

Microsoft said that "tens of millions of consumers and business customers" in these regions will now have greater access to its collaboration and communication software, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

This deal follows Microsoft's announcement last month that it would be pulling out of the consumer mobile market, and cutting 1,850 jobs in the process.

Versions of popular Office applications, such as Word and OneNote, have been available for iOS and Android for some years now. But Microsoft's push to get its apps pre-installed on handsets demonstrates that it is not backing away from mobile entirely, despite reducing its effort towards its failed Windows Phone platform.

"People want their favourite apps and experiences to work seamlessly on the device of their choice, and that's exactly what this partnership offers," said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development at Microsoft.

"Together with Xiaomi, we're bringing the very best in mobile productivity to millions more customers in China and around the world."

Xiaomi is long-time partner of Microsoft, and is also the only Android handset manufacturer which offers a Windows 10 Mobile ROM for one of its phones.

From September 2016, Xiaomi Android devices which include the Mi 5, Mi Max, Mi 4s, Redmi Note 3 and Redmi 3 will come pre-installed with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Skype applications.

The specific apps may vary by device, market and mobile operator.

The companies' new collaboration also includes a cross-license and patent transfer agreement.

Pre-installed apps are major business, and companies have gotten into trouble for incentivising handset manufacturers to offer selected apps on their devices. Recently, Google came under fire from the European Commission which concluded that the Android maker's collection of pre-installed apps have stunned competition for other app developers and service providers in Europe.