Android apps are flooding on to jailbroken Win10 phones
Uh, SatNad – are you sure this is what you want?
The addition of Android compatibility for Windows phones was called a "suicide note" back in April, and now somebody's composing the first draft. Intrepid tinkerers have opened up previews of Windows 10 for phones to allow a wide range of Android apps run without modification. Reports suggest that at this stage, far more Android apps crash than run well.
A Polish developer even says he's installed Google Play and got it up and running on Windows 10 mobile, allowing users to bypass Microsoft's app channel entirely.
You can have a glimpse of how straightforward it is to open up Windows 10 phones for 'Droid apps, here.
The Amazon app store runs pretty well.
Since its launch in late 2010, Windows Phone has gained double-digit share in some markets, but suffered from a perceived "app gap": Microsoft's Windows Store lacks the depth or quality of Apple's App store or Google's Play Store. To remedy this, Microsoft conceived an ambitious and expensive multi-pronged strategy.
There's also a lively thread at the XDA developers forum.
In addition to writing to a rich "Universal" Windows API, developers would be able to port their iOS apps, Android apps and package up websites, and send all three flavours through the Windows Store onto Windows 10 mobile devices. But the Android portion of the strategy, "Project Astoria", went further than most people realised. Windows will run Android binaries unmodified. A job posting suggested full binary compatibility was an official Astoria goal last month – and now here's the proof.
Jailbreaking and side-loading apps for Microsoft phones only to find they don't run well isn't going to tip the equilibrium of the market so much. But if application compatibility improves to the point where unmodified Android binaries run well on Windows 10, then Astoria has significant consequences for Microsoft. It could cure the mobile platform by lifting it from the doldrums. Or it could ensure Windows mobile's permanent irrelevance.
(Hence the "suicide note" observation. That's how rumours of full Android binary compatibility were described before Build.)
How so? If developers need to make no effort to target the small market of Windows 10 device users, then they'll focus their efforts on the more lucrative iOS and Android versions, and bypass Windows APIs and services completely. A key part of the puzzle is Google Play services compatibility. This isn't necessarily preloaded on Android phones – Samsung doesn't include it on the Galaxy S6, for example – but users quickly find they need it to run not just Google apps, but many third-party apps that require Google maps, for example.
BlackBerry offers good Android compatibility on its QNX-based BB10 platform, but it has no agreement with Google to distribute Google Play services or the Play Store, since BB10 isn't "a real Android". Without Play Services, an ersatz Android is in reality a bumpy ride for users.
Can you imagine Microsoft agreeing with Google to bundle Google Play Store and Play Services with Windows 10 phones? No, neither can I. But you never know with SatNad. He's unsentimental about protecting the mobile platforms, as we know.
But if he did strike an accord with Google, perhaps he'd explain it to the team, with the words, "We have to let go of this notion that for Microsoft to win, Google has to lose." ®
Sponsored: Becoming a Pragmatic Security Leader