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Summary:

A recent report suggests that Microsoft is considering bring Android apps to Windows Phone. But isn’t it too soon to admit defeat?

Lumia 1520 display
photo: Alex Colon

Microsoft is seriously considering the idea to bring Android apps to Windows Phone, according to a report from The Verge. It wouldn’t happen until Windows 9 is complete some time next year (at the earliest), but this would be a tremendous shift for Microsoft. And while it might prove positive for consumers in the short-term, it could ultimately spell trouble for Windows Phone as a viable platform in the future.

It seems like a good idea

I get why Microsoft would want to do this. Compared to the million-plus apps available in both the Apple App Store and Google Play, Windows Phone only recently crossed the 200,000 mark. And even as the OS continues to gain momentum, this doesn’t look like a trend that’s likely to end any time soon. The recent hit Flappy Bird, for instance, appeared on both iOS and Android, but there was no Windows Phone equivalent – and Flappy Bird is about as simple as app development gets.

But it’s not just the number of apps that matter. It’s the fact that many developers aren’t even considering writing for Windows Phone alongside iOS and Android. And without enough developers, Windows Phone will never truly emerge as a “must-have” platform.

Flappy Bird

The wildly popular Flappy Bird never made it to Windows Phone.

Microsoft is catching up, but it isn’t happening fast enough. Big name apps like Instagram and Mint are only just starting to appear, and even then, some of these apps lack major features you’ll find in their iOS and Android counterparts. Bringing Android apps to Windows Phone would give users hundreds of thousands of additional choices, along with the feeling they don’t need to wait for months to see a popular new app, or settle for leftovers.

But it probably isn’t

On the other hand, Microsoft has a new CEO, Windows Phone 8.1 is on the horizon and the company’s acquisition of Nokia’s device business is nearly complete. If anything, now is the time for the company to once again bet on Windows Phone and give it another shot. After all, it’s not like adding Android worked for BlackBerry.

BlackBerry 10 has the ability to run Android apps. And it’s fairly simple to download and install the Amazon Appstore, which is home to thousands of Android apps that BlackBerry 10 is not. But this is clearly not helping to move additional BB10 devices off of store shelves.

Then again, it sounds like Microsoft would support Android apps in a more official capacity than BlackBerry does, perhaps through a third-party enabler. But this also presents a problem. If a developer can easily sell their Android app on Windows Phone, what point would there be in creating an optimized version, designed to take full advantage of the platform? At best, this could result in a number of poorly scaled apps that fail to utilize Windows Phone. At worst, it means developers could stop creating apps for Windows Phone completely.

Nokia Android

Nokia is expected to introduce an Android-powered but Windows-centric smartphone at MWC.

On top of this, Nokia is expected to introduce an Android-powered device at Mobile World Congress later this month. These phones are intended to be low-cost introductory smartphones – training wheels before a user moves up to a higher-end Windows Phone handset. They likely won’t support the Google Play app store, but will still have access to Android apps through stores from Microsoft and Nokia.

With a foot in both worlds, Microsoft should further entice developers to simultaneously develop apps for both platforms. That way, if and when a user leaves their Android device behind, the same app will be available for them on Windows Phone. Simply allowing Android apps on Windows Phone would seem to be a premature admission of defeat, before the company even put up a real right.

  1. There are some people that swear the windows phone is the greatest thing on the market, but its market share ranks 3rd to apple and android. Allowing android apps to be used on the windows phone could be its saving grace.

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    1. Go read the history of OS/2 at Ars Technica. No, it won’t be WP’s saving grace. It will invalidate the entire platform.

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  2. Flappy bird was released on windows phone,I have it on my lumia 920

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    1. It’s an unofficial clone. I’m hearing that it doesn’t work on many WP devices.

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  3. perhaps Microsoft will also dump windows 8/8.1 in favor of developing a linux distro

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  4. “BlackBerry 10 has the ability to run Android apps. And it’s fairly simple to download and install the Amazon Appstore, which is home to thousands of Android apps that BlackBerry 10 is not. But this is clearly not helping to move additional BB10 devices off of store shelves.”

    The OS update to instantly install Android apps on BlackBerry through app stores just came out 2 weeks ago, and BlackBerry hasn’t even officially announced that it has this capability. It’s not going to help sell phones if it’s only been available for two weeks and most people don’t even know about it.

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    1. Oh man @Ryan you hit it on the head.

      It has never been easier to load Android Apps on Blackberry with SO 10.2.1 and then having full access to the Google Play store. After I manually upgraded my ATT BB z10 to to BB OS 10.2.1 myself since ATT doesn’t seem to want to release any BB OS updates. ATT hasn’t released a single BB OS update since June of 2013 while 3 OS updates have come out that they have ignored.

      Loaded up on my Blackberry z10 all the Unified Communication apps from Google Play store for MS Lync 2013, 2010 and Vidyo amd the Polycom and ShoreTel and Crestron Apps for conference room system control.

      Why can’t Windows take advantage of the same mass market benefits of Android run-time support. Makes sense to me and it works.

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  5. What is wrong with having real Windows based administrative control on a phone for BYOD type stuff with the core Windows OS and then leaving the consumer based garbage apps that seem to matter for consumers and the media to be available on Windows phones via a run-time environment.

    The Windows tiled OS model with real time multitasking is great just how are you going to get through the 10’s of billions of dollars of always positive media that All Things Apple and Google get for anything they do.

    Windows 8.1 tablets are so much more useful with real desktop software you already own and then the free Windows Metro apps than any app based Android or iOS tablet is.

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  6. I think the app store for windows phones is very disappointing,
    they don’t even have a simple call blocker.
    Just move back to an android phone now and am much happier :-)

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    1. I will be developing for the WP8 very soon, and hope to improve their customer base. I am looking at some comments here and I hope to address them in the near future.

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  7. The rise of the smartphone has driven up the competition in the market. Is accessibility to apps one of the most important factors to you when buying an Android versus Windows phone?

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    1. It’s in the top 5 (maybe top 3) for me, and I imagine for many other people as well.

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  8. As a new windows user, I think they’re way behind in the app department. There are many apps which I need for work, which I can’t get, as they’re not developed for the windows operating system. I hate the iphone but I may just have to go back to it.

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    1. I agree it lacks in the app department, however I think it is slowly picking up. I myself will be developing for WP8 and I hope I can make a difference and encourage users that the WP8 is still an option.

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  9. I was thinking about switching to a windows phone, but considering that it lacks so many apps it seems useless really in anyone’s perspective, for someone that doesn’t use many apps, it seems stupid to go through such a hassle, seems to me like nokia and microsoft are heading down the symbian path. If microsoft had android apps, there would be nothing to lose in getting a windows phone as you would have the best of both worlds.

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