The internet went into a tizzy a couple of days ago with a simple frustrated tweet from Windows blogger and insider, Paul Thurrott. Paul was expressing his frustration about Microsoft’s vague implications about involving itself with Android applications. For many, the thought of an Android emulator on Windows and Windows Phone left a sour taste in the mouths of Windows ‘die-hards’.
Well today at Build 2015, Microsoft cleared up their messaging regarding their involvement with Android. Starting today Android and iOS developers will have the ability to port their apps and games to the Windows platform. The Windows team has been quietly at work on developer kits that allow Android and iOS developers to engage with Windows. When it comes to Android development, developers can continue to use Java and C++ code while developing for Windows 10. For iOS developers, they can continue to use their existing Objective-C code. In other words, Microsoft is making it easier than ever to port Android and iOS apps to the Windows 10 platform, making it easier for developers to have their apps on Microsoft’s ecosystem.
“To make this possible, Windows Phones will include an Android subsystem.”
Executive Vice President of Operating Systems, Terry Myerson explained on stage how this new approach would work. Essentially if Android or iOS are using specific API’s the Windows team has and will continue to build out replacements for those API’s. Developers will be free to continue to leverage those familiar API’s in their games and apps while also utilizing Windows specific capabilities like Cortana, HoloLens, Live Tiles, Xbox Live, and achievements. Terry references Candy Crush on stage as an existing example of how a “ported” app would function in the Windows environment, specifically on Windows phone. The idea seems simple enough for developers. Developers are encouraged to bring in their code, debug it and then execute the app on Windows. With Visual Studio Code being available as a more native experience in Ubuntu and on Mac OS, the barrier to entry into the Windows ecosystem has also been lowered.
In much of the Android to Windows hoopla, iOS, and Objective C+ may have gotten overshadowed. It’s arguable that being able to port over iOS apps may be more important than Android. While passionate Windows users argued over the viability of Android in the Windows ecosystem, the idea of ‘original’ ports from iOS rarely came up in the discussion. However, according to an interview Terry Myerson gave to The Verge earlier today, Microsoft may have planned for iOS only from the beginning. “At times we’ve thought, let’s just do iOS,” Myerson explains. “But when we think of Windows we really think of everyone on the planet. There’s countries where iOS devices aren’t available.”
As Microsoft continued to explain its new “bridging” strategy of Windows 10, we find out that Android on Windows was more of a debate point for commentators. The truth of the matter is that Android was just one pillar of four that the Windows team set up for themselves. The Windows team also set to future-proof themselves by applying a new web development SDK as well. If and when web apps do finally catch their stride, the Windows team is ready to make them a native-like experience in the Windows Store and on the desktop. With the new Web SDK, web apps can take advantage of desktop notifications and in-app purchases like native universal apps.
Hopefully, Microsoft has brought some closure to the debate on whether or not having Android on Windows is a good thing. Perhaps now, people can move on from guesses about Android emulation, the failure of Windows, or the ‘ship jumping’ Microsoft was believed to be doing. After today, Microsoft put the responsibility of reaching their audience in the developers hands. If there is still no Snapchat app after this, then Windows users should assume it’s no longer a financial or development resource argument for the company.