According to Microsoft, instead of emulation, the company will make it as easy as possible for developers to port their Android and iOS apps over to Windows through a subsystem. Android and iOS apps on Windows will reuse existing code, but run in a security container. This will hopefully mean more apps on the Windows Store.
Microsoft’s goal is straightforward: It wants Windows 10 to be a development target for Android and iOS developers, and it’s hoping that making it easier to port programs will encourage developers to support its own software. It’s also obviously hoping that consumers who might otherwise be turned off by the lack of applications will instead adopt Microsoft’s platform.
To demo the new Android apps porting feature, Microsoft showed off the Choice Hotels Android app on a Windows Phone. The end result wasn’t very smooth, since the app took a while to load, but it was still impressive.
For iOS, the new version of Visual Studio supports Xcode, the development environment in which iOS apps are programmed. You can import the code, debug it, and compile a native revision that runs in Windows 10 environments. Microsoft revealed that it’s worked with a big developer, King, to fine-tune the feature — the company brought Candy Crush Saga to Windows Phone earlier this year. The porting process isn’t entirely seamless — apps that depend on platform-specific dependencies, like a navigation app that taps into Apple’s Maps, will need to find Windows equivalents — but significantly cuts down on the effort and time required.
The broader theme of Microsoft’s work is to make Windows 10 the platform for developers. It will give them one app platform that spans phone, tablet, PC, hybrid, and console, and thanks to the free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8 users, it should be much less fragmented than Windows in the past. The company has the incredibly ambitious goal of having 1 billion users on the Windows 10 family within 2-3 years of launch.
The underlying strategy behind the four bridges is to allow developers to use the code they already have. Microsoft’s intent isn’t to make a BlackBerry 10-style capitulation, where the answer to the app gap is “just use Android apps instead.” Rather, the hope is that developers will still make Windows apps; they’ll just be Windows apps that happen to share a ton of code with iOS or Android apps.