Android And iOS Apps For Windows 10
Written by Lucy Black   
Thursday, 30 April 2015

For mobile developers the key announcement at Microsoft's Build Developer Conference is that Android and iOS apps will run on Windows 10.




Unlike all previous versions of the operating system, Windows 10 spans the desktop and mobile devices. Up until now Windows Phone has taken a very small slice of the Smartphone pie and the Windows Store has sparse pickings compared to Apple' and Googles. Microsoft's big problem has always been how to get developers to write apps when there was such a small audience and how to increase the audience given there were so few apps. 

Addressing developers on the opening day of Build 2015, Microsoft executive VP of operating systems, Terry Myerson, outlined plans to bring Android and iOS apps to the Microsoft platform. saying:

Today we are announcing that you will be able to compile the same Objective-C code that's being used in iOS applications within Visual Studio on Windows.

... we'll enable developers to reuse nearly all of theJava and C++ code from an Android Phone app to create apps for phones running Windows 10.

For iOS devs a tool code-named  "Project Islandwood" will make it possible to convert Xcode project files into Visual Studio solutions, without requyiring any code translation  and keeping all of the original Objective-C files intact. Myerson also said a future version of Visual Studio will include full support for Objective-C noting:

"You [will] get great syntax highlighting support that you expect from Visual Studio, including highlighting all of the weirdness of Objective-C!"

Of course there is the small matter that even Apple agrees with the "weirdness" joke and has moved on to Swift - a language ironically much like C#.

As well as an Objective-C toolchain Microsoft has implemented the iOS API as a conversion layer so that changes needed to iOS apps to run under Windows 10 are minor. 

Microsoft has been working with King, the developer of Candy Crush to bring iOS directly to Windows 10. Given Apple's attitude to iOS devs who contemplate making their apps work on a competitor's platform it will be intresting to see if iOS devs are keen to follow King's lead.

There is also the small matter that if APIs are copyright, as held in Oracle v Google, Apple might have something to say about Microsoft's iOS API layer. 

"Project Astoria" is the name given to an Android subsytem in Windows 10 phones that, according to Myerson is:

"where an app can be written that takes advantage of the Android code but also the extensions that are right in the Windows platform to really delight Windows users."

To illustrate this Myerson demoed an app called Choice Hotels. While based on Android code  it had Windows 10's mouse and touch capabilities, was integrated with the Windows 10 navigation model and worked with Windows 10's built-in keyboard.

In this case there is no need to make use of a Visual Studio toolchain. The app can be developed and compiled to an APK using standard Android IDEs such as Android Studio. The APK can then be run on Android or via a compatibility layer under Windows 10. In this case it is difficult to see how Google could object to Microsoft implementing any part of the Android infrastructure when it is defending its implementation of the Java infrastructure. 

Of course Microsoft's task is made easier by the availability of the entire Android source code in the form of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). However, there are quite a few Google proprietary services such as maps and geolocation that aren't part of the AOSP. If an Android app makes use of any of these then it isn't likely to "just work" on Windows 10. However with some tweaking it should be possible to get something equivalent that does run. 

For Android developers the idea of producing apps that run on the Windows platform at the same time as creating Android apps seems quite an attractive proposition and may be enough to give Windows 10 phone the boost it needs.


If the "interop" is done well it might be enough to encourage custom Windows 10 mobile versions of existing Android and iOS apps to be created. 

More Information

BUILD Press Release

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 30 April 2015 )