Microsoft's Windows 10 phones won't get Android app ports anytime soon

Microsoft has delayed and possibly killed its plan to allow developers to port Android apps to Windows 10 phones.

Windows 10 Mobile Build 10136
Mark Hachman

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Microsoft’s audacious plan to bring apps from competing platforms to Windows 10 Mobile has hit a snag—at least for Android conversions. Microsoft's tool to port Android apps to Windows 10 Mobile, dubbed Project Astoria, is delayed. Some reports say the tool may be canceled altogether.

“We’re committed to offering developers many options to bring their apps to the Windows Platform...The Astoria bridge is not ready yet,” Microsoft said in a statement to several news sites including Windows Central.

Astoria is one part of Microsoft’s larger plan to close the so-called app gap that exists between Windows mobile devices and its two larger rivals, Android and iOS. The two bigger platforms have thousands of apps that are actively maintained and new, high-quality apps constantly appear in each app store. Windows, on the other hand, lags behind in terms of top-tier apps, and those that do show up receive frustratingly infrequent updates.

Microsoft hoped to change all that with tools dubbed "bridges" for porting Android, iOS, and web apps to Windows 10. The idea was to make it easy for developers to bring their apps to Windows Phone with minimal changes to their code base.

The impact on you at home: Even with Microsoft’s scaled back mobile ambitions it desperately needs to improve the app situation for Windows-based smartphones. The Windows Bridges are Microsoft’s most realistic way to rapidly beef up the app selection for upcoming Windows 10 Mobile devices. Without that all-critical ecosystem of third-party apps it will be hard to convince Windows users to try out the new Lumia devices rolling out this week—no matter how seamlessly Windows 10 Mobile devices integrate with Windows 10 on the PC.

Bridge to iOS

Microsoft’s iOS porting tool, called Project Islandwood, is already available. It requires a little bit of investment by developers since they must make some changes to their code and re-compile the app. Nevertheless, it makes the process much easier than starting from scratch.

Astoria, however, was reportedly going to be an app emulator similar to what BlackBerry tried, and is still trying, to do to make BlackBerry 10 more palatable to users. Emulated apps are problematic, however, since they can often feel unnatural in their non-native environments and can also be subject to performance issues.

Microsoft has yet to say whether Astoria will be mothballed, but even if it is the company may try to find another way to make it easy for Java-based Android apps to come to Windows 10 Mobile.

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