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Android apps on Windows 10: the end for Windows phones?

Barry Collins
29 Apr 2015
Lumia 430
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Support for Android apps on Windows is a desperate last throw of the dice for Windows phones

Microsoft will today try and resuscitate its flagging smartphone business by offering Android apps on Windows 10 devices. The move is a somewhat desperate bid to address the biggest weakness of Windows phones and tablets - the relative paucity of apps in the Windows Store. It could, however, merely hasten the demise of Microsoft's phone business.

It's not yet clear how Microsoft will support Android apps on Windows 10, with full details set to be announced later today at the company's Build conference in San Francisco. The company might offer some form of emulator that allows consumers to install Android apps on their smartphones. More likely, it will release a new set of tools that make it simple for developers to port their existing Android apps to the Windows Store.

Everything you need to know about Windows 10

Although the move would give Windows a short-term boost and would doubtless be welcomed by those who already own a Windows phone or tablet, it poses an awkward longer-term question: why not just buy an Android device instead? Windows 10 offers few - if any - advantages over Android as a mobile operating system. Android offers a far greater choice of hardware, whereas pretty much the only company still manufacturing Windows phones is Microsoft itself. What's more, Microsoft has spent the past year or so making its Office apps run on Android and iOS, eradicating one of the few reasons to choose Windows over one of its rivals.

Support for Android apps on Windows will also decimate any chance of developers spending time and money coding mobile apps exclusively for Windows 10. Why go to the bother and expense of coding for Microsoft's platforms when you can simply port your Android app instead? Microsoft's share of the smartphone market stands at less than 3% - it simply makes no financial sense to specifically target such a niche audience. The Windows Store will likely be filled with apps that were released on Android some weeks or months beforehand. 

Microsoft isn't the first company to resort to offering support for Android apps to prop up a flagging store. The Amazon App Store is built into the BlackBerry 10 operating system, but that has done little or nothing to improve the company's fortunes. BlackBerry's worldwide market share stands at 0.4%, down from 8.1% in 2011, according to IDC. 

Microsoft is reportedly set to announce a massive writedown of its mobile business this week, with the company allegedly making a loss on every Lumia handset sold. We fear it won't be long before Microsoft is cutting its mobile losses permanently.  

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