The most common reason I hear as to why people aren’t buying Window’s phones/tablets is because their App ecosystem is limited compared to that of Apple and Android. While Window’s 400,000 to 500,000 apps is not a small number, it’s relatively pale in comparison to Apple and Android’s 1.2 and 1.3 million respective available apps. However, a rumored announcement could change this conundrum.
According to Microsoft enthusiast and tech blogger, Paul Thurrott, Microsoft will announce their plans to enable Windows phones and tablets to run Android apps at this week’s Build Developers Conference. Paul does not share a source and details are scarce, so take this rumor with a grain of salt. Despite being Thurrot’s prediction, he disagrees with Microsoft’s decision:
This is the opposite of what I wanted. Indeed, when Microsoft first started talking up the notion of universal apps that would run across its various platforms—Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox One, Internet of Things embedded devices, Surface Hub, and HoloLens—I opined that truly “universal” apps would in fact also run on competing devices as well. At the time, I figured this would mean Android primary, since that platform is open and Microsoft has already starting building support for Android into Visual Studio. (iOS is a harder nut to crack because Apple locks down the platform.)
He goes on to explain that enabling Windows phones to run Android apps would be a “slap in the face” to developers who have invested time and resources into learning to develop for the Windows platform. While developers may be disappointed in past time wasted learning to develop for Microsoft’s platform, their bound to be happy about future time saved from not having to develop for multiple platforms. With 8-9 million consumers using Windows phones, this change could expand an app’s reach beyond what would typically only extend to Android users. This is a win for both consumers and developers alike.
Additionally, Thurrott argues that enabling Android apps to run on Windows does not solve the problem as most consumers will stick with what’s familiar: Android and their apps. While Paul’s concern is valid, I would argue that putting the Apps disadvantage aside, the most compelling case for the switch to a Windows phone or tablet is a unified operating systems. For example, many Apple followers buy solely Apple products because of how unified the experience is across all device. Now before you beat me to shreds, it’s obvious that Microsoft’s current OS is by no means anywhere near the level of unity of Apple’s Platform. However, if Microsoft’s focus is shifted from apps to the overall unified experience, that could change. Considering there are 1.25 billion PCs running Windows and a few hundred million running Windows 8, there are far more prospective users out there that could benefit from a more unified smartphone PC experience.
This leads to the next question which would be, “how will this work?” Will Microsoft simply create an environment that is able to read the Android framework? If so, will these apps be sold through Microsoft’s App Store? These are essential questions as Apple and Google’s appstores generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue each year. If a simple port of Android’s code will lead to an App that Microsoft can take a percentage of profit from, the move is a no-brainer in my opinion. All mobile developers are familiar with developing for Android. Making development for Windows friction-less and less time-intensive will only generate more apps for the phone. More apps will likely mean more sales, more money for Microsoft and developers, and an improved Windows Phone experience for the consumer. Win win right?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.