Paul Thurrott unleashed somewhat of a bombshell this morning when, disguised as a rant against the idea, he mentioned that Microsoft is about to allow Android apps to run on Windows, including on PCs, phones, and tablets. An announcement could come as early as this week at Build, Thurrott says, but that's about all he says about any details on this somewhat startling revelation.
Microsoft has been long rumored to be contemplating such a move, and Tom Warren at The Verge made claims before that an Android on Windows play was in the works. Any such move would be fraught with issues both technical and legal, and Thurrott thinks that Windows developers will take the news badly:
For developers who have invested a lifetime of learning and mastering Microsoft’s platforms, Android compatibility is a slap in the face. This sends the message that they have wasted their time and that it’s time to move on to a more successful platform since, after all, the apps you create for Android will now work on Android and Windows/Windows Phone.
But the notion that there are a legion of Windows app developers out there to begin with is stretching things by quite a bit. Steve Ballmer made this mistake when he counted on Windows developers to carry the Window 8 and Windows Phone day, but in truth, Windows developers work mostly on in-house solutions and large corporate installations, not apps. Enterprise Windows development and the type of app development that has fueled Silicon Valley are apples and oranges.
So, supposing, without any evidence other than rumors, Android on Windows happens. What then? It is very possible, as Thurrott says, that the Windows Phone hardware market will suffer. Well, it's suffering already, and Microsoft appears poised to take another huge writedown on the dubious and desparate Ballmer decision to acquire Nokia's phones businesses.
Microsoft could begin to compete on a hardware only battlefield against the likes of Apple and Samsung, where the "app gap" was a non-starter, while continuing to seed much of the world's first forays into computing coming via a Windows Phone. If the hardware itself fails to measure up, then Microsoft loses. If not, it's a level playing field.
Microsoft's far bigger play is in software and services, anyway, and nothing about Android on Windows should slow down the company's push into getting users and app developers onto Office 365, OneDrive, and Azure.
In a perfect ninja cat riding on a Windows horse world, would Microsoft embrace Android? No, of course not. If it does, as soon as this week, will developers and users leave Windows in droves? That's not about to happen, either.
Microsoft needs to close the app gap in a way it hasn't been able to up to this point, and allowing Android on Windows, if it can pull it off, may be the company's only recourse. In any event, it's sure going to make for an interesting Build if it happens!