Sources have been telling me for the past year that Microsoft has been working to enable users to run Android apps on Windows 10. Fortunately, that’s not what the software giant announced today. Instead—and in keeping with the developer focus of this week’s Build conference—Microsoft revealed that it would enable developers to easily port their Android apps to Windows universal apps and distribute them through the Windows Store.
This is not the doomsday scenario I openly fretted about yesterday in Windows + Android? and may indeed be only partially related. In fact, what Microsoft did announce is quite reasonable, and should be welcomed by Windows-focused developers and users alike.
In a briefing, Microsoft executive vice president of operating systems Terry Myerson told me that the Android interoperability he announced was just part of Microsoft’s broader goal to get Windows 10 on over one billion devices within 2-3 years.
“We want to provide the right bridges so that developers can leverage this universal app platform,” he told me, “and that’s true with whatever code bases they may have. We will embrace these code bases and let you extend them and distribute them through the store. It’s the same approach we’ve had historically: do what it takes for customers to embrace Windows.”
As I understand it—and certainly this will be made clearer over the course of Build—developers will be able to take their Java and C++-based Android apps to Windows Phone, adding unique universal app functionality like Cortana and Action Center integration and live tile support. Technically what we are seeing here is the open version of Android, AOSP, running on the Windows subsystem, though Myerson shied away from the word “emulator.”
The resulting universal app would work like any app in Windows Store: users could easily and quickly install and uninstall such an app, and they are self-contained items that won’t leave behind any shared file detritus if removed.
As for users being able to arbitrarily install Android app on Windows Phone … well. Microsoft is apparently not ready to go there today, which is just fine with me. That, combined with the company’s other announcements this week, including its goal of one billion Windows 10 devices, speaks to its confidence in its new platform. And that is good news for anyone who is freaked out, as I am, by the possibility of a broad retreat into the arms of competing platforms like Android.
Embrace and extend Android? F@#ing A. That is more like it.