Sunday, March 29, 2015

Android apps won’t save Windows Phone

Apps have been Microsoft’s longtime Windows Phone problem. Not every major app is on the platform and the ones that are, are often not on par with the Android and iOS versions. For example, Windows Phone users are left wondering if the recently released Periscope, that didn’t even find its way to Android at launch, will ever be at the platform. There are some developers making great third party clients, Poki (Pocket) for example, but this is only possible when the official app maker has a decent API system and appreciates third party work.

Thinking about possible solutions, one that comes to mind is the addition of Android apps. Being able to download and use Android apps on a platform that isn’t Android is not new; BlackBerry added this function with the release of BlackBerry 10 phones to make the platform more accessible for app lovers. This could also work for Microsoft. There are some disadvantages, however.

Running Android apps on a platform that isn’t Android requires an emulator. And it’s all about delivering a smooth and fast experience. But if the Neowin rumors are true, Microsoft is seriously investigating the possibility. Not only brings this technical difficulties with it, but it might have legal consequences as well. Google might not really like Microsoft’s idea to bring native Play Store apps to Windows and the relationship between the two companies isn’t that great lately, with Google being harsh about serious bugs that aren’t fixed and Google is not actively developing new apps for Windows Phone. The addition of Android apps on Windows Phone doesn’t mean that we will see any Google apps (or any Google Play only apps for that matter) either, since Microsoft isn’t an official Android OEM. Microsoft might include its own Android app store or use Amazon’s.

I don’t think Microsoft should bring Android apps to Windows Phone, but instead focus on their new effort with Windows 10: universal apps. This basically means that a developer can bring his app to more form factors, using the same code base. Windows apps work better in Windows 10 in general, now that they can be opened in windows, like normal programs on laptops and desktops. For a user, a nice suite of apps is important. If Microsoft can manage to have every Windows desktop app on Windows Phone and vice versa, it will create a more seamless experience between devices for its users. Still, developers have to actually start making and supporting apps, but if this could be as effortless as updating one code base, it will be much more appealing to developers to have a Windows app.

Microsoft is leading the way, with completely new versions of Office and other apps. By bringing Android Apps to Windows Phone it might kill the developer community altogether, not only for Windows Phone, but also for desktop apps.

The addition of aAndroid apps could mean that users decide to switch over to Android, because they have more apps and presumably a more solid and smooth experience. BlackBerry has its own unique selling points, like a physical keyboard or business-focused software, but I’m not sure Windows Phone is strong enough to differentiate itself.

Windows Phone is fighting a tough battle against Android and bringing your enemy in, doesn’t sound like a good idea.