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.
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.