Say you’ve got the most popular desktop operating system in the world, but you’re struggling to gain traction in the smartphone and tablet spaces? You might find yourself with a bit of a chicken and egg problem: How do you attract users unless you have great apps? And how do you attract app developers without users?

One solution might be to make it easy for app developers to port existing apps to run on your operating system… or even come up with ways to run them without any real porting at all.

So maybe it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to hear that Microsoft may be considering ways to bring Android apps to Windows and Windows Phone.


Sources tell the folks at The Verge and ZDNet that Microsoft is seriously considering adding support for Android apps.

You can already sort of run Android apps on Windows by using emulators such as Bluestacks or Genymotion. It’s possible Microsoft would simply partner with a company like that to make it easier to run Android games and other apps. But it’s also possible that Microsoft is considering taking a page out of BlackBerry’s playbook and hatching plans to let developer submit Android apps to the Windows Store.

That way users would be able to download and install Android apps as if they were native Windows apps. Microsoft would get a cut of revenue, developers wouldn’t have to put much extra effort into their existing apps, and theoretically Windows devices would be able to run as many as a million new apps.

Of course there are some problems with the approach. Android apps don’t necessarily meet the design guidelines for Windows or Windows Phone apps and might not play well with the navigation buttons, touch gestures, or other elements of Windows phones and tablets.

Developers would also have multiple app stores to keep up with. It’s highly unlikely that Google would let Microsoft include the Google Play Store with its operating systems, and pretty unlikely that Microsoft would want to anyway. So every time an app is updated, developers would have to submit new versions to the Windows and Google Play Stores.

To get an idea of how that would work, take a look at the Amazon Appstore. Developers who want to make their apps available for Kindle Fire tablets and other devices can submit software to Amazon’s store as well as Google’s… but many folks just don’t do that since the Amazon Appstore has a much smaller user base than the Play Store. And apps that are available in both are often updated first in the Google Play Store.

While it’d be nice to see a greater number of touch-friendly apps arrive in the Windows Store, it’s not clear whether support for Android apps would ultimately help Windows or hurt it by offering an inconsistent user experience.

And as BlackBerry’s declining market share shows, simply supporting Android apps isn’t enough to guarantee success.

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34 replies on “Would support for Android apps save Windows and Windows Phone?”

  1. Microsoft should not do this they should concentrate on building windows store and they should even stop Normandy from seeing the light WTF

  2. Microsoft should absolutely add support for the dominant operating system’s apps by default. It was such a winning strategy for OS/2, Lindows, and Blackberry that it seems like a no-brainer.

    That is, if they do it, they have no brains left. But it might make win9 a little nicer on the touch side.

  3. honestly if Microsoft decides to do this, they are joining the likes of BBM, Jolla, and Ubuntu and saying “we give up” which is a sign of a bad decision making company. If you have no trust in your own products and services that you decide to surrender Microsoft might as well just sell the whole Windows Phone division to Google. I love my WP and i just think they need to be more aggressive in getting app developers and marketing. I personally don’t want a jumbled mess of an OS that supports Android apps. You don’t see Apple doing this.

    1. Android app support certainly wouldn’t lure anyone into buying a locked down system that comes from monopolist Microsoft, who notably left widely criticized issues in Windows CE unfixed for a decade, cause they thought they had the ‘personal assistant’ / ‘smart phone’ market cornered till Apple made it obvious they didn’t in 2007.

  4. I don’t know about Windows Phone but for Windows 8, I don’t see the point. If I wanted a gimped touch friendly app, I’ll resort to some Modern UI app. If I want the full blown full featured version, I’ll use the desktop app. Of course, if I’m using a Windows tablet, it better have a mouse pointer (bezel mouse, active pen or keyboard/mouse attachment).

    I have an Android phone but the apps I use on it are just ones I have to make do with. I don’t see touch interfaces as the future. It’s more a supplement to keyboard/mouse input for certain situations like note taking during class/meetings, lazy couch/bed use and specific work tasks (artists, standing type field work, POS, etc.).

  5. Hilarious. Microsoft hellbent on replicating Blackberry’s failed model doesn’t bode well.

    Microsoft needs to start by not being beholden to ‘content’ and continue the historical openness of its platform or lose that position to Linux. The closed ecosystem models of Apple’s iTunes and Google’s Play are not easy or cheap to replicate, so don’t.

    Microsoft needs to consolidate its platforms into one single entity – xBox, Windows, and WindowsPhone should all be running the same fundamental OS.

    The “app” business model is actually -extremely- fragile, and it won’t take much to overwhlem it – by a participant interested in doing so. Fundamentally, all these are are prepackaged, pre-vetted programs sold in bite size chunks. How is that beyond Microsoft’s reach?

    The ‘versions’ of its software, should be tiered by potential performance and power of the hardware used to run it. Strip every non-essential process and functionality from the flagship product and make that your WindowsPhone or xBox. All in? Server. Done.

    If MSFT doesn’t get willing to slaughter some sacred cows to redevelop its business model, for one, and stop following failed business models for another, it’s long continuous decline won’t end.

  6. I think being able to run Android apps natively on Windows Phone would probably harm Windows Phone and Windows RT by extension since they are aiming to converge the two.

    Developers would have almost zero reason to build a native WP app, instead they can just focus on Android app development. That will probably lead to a drastic decline in Windows Phone app development.

    1. how can application support decline from basically zero…. for Microsoft, its been pay 2 play: If they want an app on Windphone / RT, they have to pay the developer to do it.

  7. On a less funny note, I don’t think MS NEEDS to add Android app support to WP. Saying that it needs to be saved implys that its drowning, when in fact it is the fastest growing mobile OS and the most popular in a bunch of countries. It would be nice in regular windows, but WP8 is buttery smooth, why ruin that with clunky java android emulators?

    1. when you have almost no marketshare any growth looks huge. We’re talking marketshare numbers not much better than linux desktop marketshare numbers.

      1. Would you say Linux desktops are dieing and need to be saved?

    2. There is no evidence that it would have to hurt performance though for the non-android apps,and it would take a bit out of Androids slice of the pie.

      1. But it would. You cant just restart the emulator everytime you want to launch an app. It would have to run in the background, consuming a ton of resources (look at BB10).

        1. From my understanding only the Android apps have slow performance while the native BB apps are just fine. Although there was/is going to be an update to increase Android app performance significantly. Also, when not running Android apps, the Android runtime doesn’t take up much resources.

          I do agree that being able to run Android apps isn’t likely to help Windows much though.

          1. As an owner of a BB Playbook, I can tell you it does take up significant resources.

          2. Emulators do tend to take a fair amount of resources as they’re not only fooling the app to run on a different OS but also running a virtual machine of the system the app would normally be running on… RAM often has to be set aside to run this emulation and provide resources for the emulated apps, which normally can’t be shared with the native OS…

            There’s always overhead for running any form of emulation and thus it’s never a ideal solution… even systems much more powerful than the original can run slowly, as has been the complaint for running Bluestack on even a Core i3 laptop, for example!

            So it’s mainly a stopgap measure to make up for the lack of apps on a given platform, which right now MS’s mobile app ecosystem is also suffering with…

            The Playbook OS shouldn’t be compared to BB10, however, since they only share the QNX Kernel and use different versions of the Android emulator…

            Generally, QNX is a much more powerful base and gives the BB OS better performance overall… Multi-tasking being one of the things they take better advantage of than other mobile OS for example… Though, to make it appeal to the masses BB10 is a bit more bloated… Kinda like comparing Core Linux with Ubuntu… but much like iOS it’s all pretty well optimized…

            Blackberry’s main problem is the lack of appeal to general consumes…. they focused far too long on their business and government consumer base and typically released over priced models with last gen specs… This of course all finally took its toll when they finally started to lose their traditional base and failed to appeal to the newer consumer base…

            Along with other bad decisions and some bad model releases that hurt consumer trust, with the general sense of playing catchup with the other mobile OS markets for years and it’s little wonder why they’re in the state they’re in now…

            All that aside, BB10 is one of the best mobile OS available but being a good OS isn’t a recipe for success by itself and having the best doesn’t mean it’ll have mass appeal… business have had to learn that hard lesson for decades… Betamax versus VCR being one of many examples where the cheaper and easier to use solution often won out over the more expensive and otherwise better solution…

          3. That is a very large reply and I agree with you, BB10 is a nice OS, might be my next platform in fact. But all I am trying to argue is that it will take up significant resources, not “none”.

          4. The PlaybFook isn’t running BB10… Blackberry decided against porting it to the Playbook because of the low specs of the Playbook…

            Basically, the Playbook OS may be similarly based on QNX but they aren’t that similar otherwise and BB10 is running the much newer version of the Android emulator…

            Besides, the Playbook OS is optimized for multi-tasking on a level beyond what most other mobile OS offer, which means it naturally is more resource hungry, and it’s also one of the last to still support Flash and that’s likely taking up even more resources than the Android emulator…

            Keep in mind that Android is also pushing for higher levels of multi-tasking capabilities and that means other mobile devices are starting to become more resource hungry as well…

  8. nice pun there

    “…taking a page out of Blackberry’s playbook(heh heh)”

  9. As far as Bay Trail tablets go, I’d be plenty happy if they simply could dual boot Android. They boot Windows in under 10 seconds, and once they go 64 bit and have more memory, I don’t see why you could not suspend 1 OS and switch to the other. For me, that would make a more versatile device and probably not add much to cost.

    1. The only down side to dual boot is that you have two full operating systems on already limited space.

        1. How does that help with the install size of each OS plus completely separate apps? Bay Trail can only use eMMC storage which are generally small unless you pay much more money for large sizes. Also, if you go 64-bit, both the OS’s and apps might possibly take up even more space.

          Of course, non-OS/app specific data can be shared like photos, videos, documents, etc. but determining partition sizes might be difficult. For example, how much space would you allocate for each OS and the shared data partition? People who are going to buy a tablet that dual boots out of the box might not know how to resize partitions or even know what partitions are. That’s one of the reasons Google is claiming why they’re trying to get rid of SD cards on Android devices forcing only a single user accessible partition.

          1. “How does that help with the install size of each OS plus completely separate apps? ”

            It helps in that you don’t have to have redundant storage with the same data!

            “Bay Trail can only use eMMC storage which are generally small unless you
            pay much more money for large sizes. Also, if you go 64-bit, both the
            OS’s and apps might possibly take up even more space.”

            Like all storage mediums, eMMC are being improved over time and we should start seeing higher capacities become the norm over the next few years… the push for higher performance is pushing for higher specs on even mobile devices and the system designers are preparing for that eventuality…

            Many of the next gen systems that’ll be coming out by the end of this year are already going to support maximum specs much higher than what we have now… So the market will adapt…

            Besides, Android still doesn’t take up much space and mobile apps are still pretty small compared to desktop apps and going 64bit shouldn’t change that too much for that side of things… It’s more worrisome for the desktop side but Windows devices typically support higher specs than Android only devices anyway…

            “Of course, non-OS/app specific data can be shared like photos, videos,
            documents, etc. but determining partition sizes might be difficult. For
            example, how much space would you allocate for each OS and the shared
            data partition?”

            If done right then they won’t have to… remember, Android is run from a Linux Kernel and that can be run from the same partition as Windows uses… You don’t need a separate partition in such a use case… It all depends on how well the two OS can run together…

            While there’s always the option of simply having Windows able to run Android apps without actually running a separate Android OS… In either case end users would only have to worry about organizing their own data and whether a mobile app and the desktop app can work with the same data or not…

          2. “It helps in that you don’t have to have redundant storage with the same data!”
            That was already stated by pear about user data. Also, there wouldn’t be much redundant data between the OS and app installs.

            “Android is run from a Linux Kernel and that can be run from the same partition as Windows uses”
            How do you propose a way to install Linux on the same parition as Windows for a dual boot configuration or are you talking about virtualization? The only way I’ve seen so far has been to use a single file on the Windows partition that contains the full Linux file system. This is kludgy and can cause disk performance issues. Virtualization is similarly problematic while adding more resource overhead.
            Of course, I’m no Linux expert so I’d like to hear how this would be done.

          3. “That was already stated by pear about user data. Also, there wouldn’t be much redundant data between the OS and app installs.”

            Like I pointed out, the apps don’t take up much space but user data can… making keeping redundant copies of user data the real problem with such an arrangement and that can add up to a lot more than you’re thinking…

            “How do you propose a way to install Linux on the same parition as Windows for a dual boot configuration…”

            Keep in mind we are talking about Android and not really Linux per say… Android only really runs the Linux Kernel and that can be handled much like it is on a Live USB distro where nothing is ever changed… Similar to booting off a optical disk for example…

            Main issue for full Linux is NTFS, as it’s easier to get the two to work together on a less restrictive format like FAT32, and NTFS generally doesn’t support what most Linux distros require for file permission, etc.

            But there are exceptions like the the ntfs-3g driver for linux, since 2007, supports both reading and writing to NTFS… Prior to this it was read only… and things like Steam for Linux can be configured to the ntfs-3g driver by default to work with NTFS…

            While Android you can already install Android-x86 to an NTFS file system to co-exist with Windows!

            Though, VM for just the Kernel is a lot easier to run than the full GNU/Linux distro would be and that could also be done with minimum impact on resources and they can still have shared support for keeping files on the same partition for user data, etc to make things easier for end users…

            Also, keep in mind that this will have support from both Google and MS… something no previous attempts to make such integration work… at least outside of the server market where they often integrate multiple solutions to make it simpler for IT support…

            Besides, they could always just change the Linux Kernel to support NTFS directly if they really wanted to…

  10. Windows Phone is toast anyway. Stick a fork in it, it’s done. Android on Windows sounds more interesting, and it’ll be fun to see how that concept plays out.

    1. Phone should have been RT. RT should have found some way to have backwards compatibility or not existed at all. They compromise so much to get onto efficient mobile processors and then Intel makes a huge leap in one gen and makes the thing almost pointless.

      1. I disagree, RT should have been built on top of WP8, not the other way around. If they can merge the two and keep the WP8 app catalog in tact then it will be miles ahead of where RT is now.

        1. lol that would be backwards…

          btw, Windows RT originally had windows application support, but Intel asked Microsoft to remove it!

          Microsoft somehow caved to Intel, and so, RT was dead before it was ever released.

          1. I had never heard that speculation before. It most certainly is not a fact.

  11. I have a windows device (venue 11 pro), but I just don’t like the idea of my productivity machine being tied to an online ID. For that reason I have a local account, and ignore the windows store.

    I think proper UMPCs could be more attractive now – tablet devices are sort of there but not. Touch designed software just doesn’t seem to offer the level of power as regular desktop software, and is annoyingly flooded with ads and in app purchases – something thankfully absent from proper free software (gimp, bloodshed, virtualdub, openoffice etc).
    Maybe they should try round 2 – 8 inch and under devices with a proper keyboard.

    1. I’d buy an OQO slider successor in a heart beat assuming it has good design and build quality.

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