Microsoft reportedly considering bringing Android apps to Windows

February 12, 2014
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WIndows vs Android Windows 8 Android Logo Brand -2

According to a new report from the Verge, Microsoft is weighing the possibility of adding Android app support to Windows and Windows Phone.

As tablet and smartphone shipments continue to increase, PC shipments slowly decline. The writing is on the wall: although traditional PCs will likely have a place in the enterprise, education and gaming world for a long time to come, the reality is that a desktop or laptop’s relevance among everyday consumers is starting to fade.

Microsoft knows this, and that’s exactly why they attempted to bridge their mobile and desktop efforts with Windows 8. It’s also why they continue to push Windows Phone 8, and why their new CEO Satya Nadella indicates that mobile and cloud computing are major focuses for the company.

Microsoft’s biggest weakness in the mobile world is arguably its lack of apps. There are a number of folks that legitimately like the designs of Nokia handset and even prefer the tiled UI found on Windows, but many consumers aren’t willing to leave all their favorite apps behind.

Microsoft is reportedly in the “early stages” of bringing Android app support to Windows.

In the desktop world, we’ve seen efforts to address the app issue by throwing an Android band-aid on top. This includes well-established emulation software like BlueStacks, or even the more recent Intel-led “Dual OS” approach. If a new report from the Verge proves correct, Microsoft is seriously thinking about using a similar method to bring Android apps to both its desktop and mobile OSes.

Citing unnamed sources, the report claims that Microsoft is currently in the “early stages” of discussing or planning such a move, and that there are very mixed emotions internally about whether such a change is the right one for Microsoft.

It’s also unknown whether Microsoft would build its own system or use an existing method, like the two highlighted above. For what it’s worth, sources familiar with Intel’s plans have reportedly indicated that the company has been pushing Microsoft to provide Android apps in its Windows store already.

Regardless of what method Microsoft uses, a few things will likely hold true. First, Microsoft will want to curate the list of apps that are ported and will want to control the distribution directly through its Windows app stores. Second, Microsoft will probably try and find a way to encourage developers to push native apps first, with Android porting as a fallback option.

Is bringing Android to Windows a good idea?

We have seen this all play out with Blackberry before. First, allowing easy porting of Android apps to Blackberry, then full-out allowing any Android APK to run on BB10. None of these changes have done much for Blackberry, but it’s important to remember that Microsoft is in a very different position than Blackberry.

For starters, Microsoft is a very powerful player in the desktop world and Windows Phone 8 is actually growing in terms of global market presence-- even if not as quickly or impressively as more established platforms like iOS and Android.

Microsoft could leverage Android app support as a way to fill the gaps in their existing app library.

If handled carefully, Microsoft could leverage Android app support as a way to fill the gaps in their existing app library. With continued global marketing, Windows with better app support could appeal to tablet users looking for both a mobile experience and the ability to run traditional business apps and games. On the phone side, folks that aren’t swayed by iOS, and are looking for something that is perceived as “simpler” than Android, could be attracted by Windows Phone if it had better app support.

As more consumers move towards Windows Phone 8 due to improved app support, these users would be more likely to use the included Microsoft cloud apps for storage, searching and more. This would help Microsoft’s second focus: improving their cloud efforts.

Of course the reality isn’t this simple. There are no guarantees that adding Android apps would magically make Windows more appealing. There’s also the risk that such a move will kill developer interest in native apps, which will lead to the Windows store being flooded by Android apps that feature designs that are inconsistent with the modern/Metro look.

Bottom-line, adding Android app supports could potentially help Microsoft temporarily play catch up to its mobile rivals, but there are some very real risks. What do you think, could bringing Android support to Windows provide the jumpstart Microsoft needs to better compete with Google and Apple in the mobile arena? Or will it ultimately hurt the Windows brand?

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