Why running Android apps on the Surface Pro is bad for Microsoft, Android, and developers

Why running Android apps on the Surface Pro is bad for Microsoft, Android, and developers

Summary: Installing an Android emulator on a Surface Pro tablet is not the way to go to plaster the gaps in Microsoft's app ecosystem.


Microsoft just got 750,000 new apps for its Surface Pro tablet without having to lift a finger. This is thanks to BlueStacks releasing an optimized version of its Android App Player for Microsoft's newest tablet.

Problem is, plastering over the gaps in Microsoft's app ecosystem by installing an Android emulator is not going to solve anything — and it could make things a lot worse.

One of the biggest challenges of releasing a new class of device is setting up an ecosystem of apps to support it. Do it right — as Apple did with iOS, or Google did with Android — and it can be a solid foundation for massive sales.

Do it wrong —a good example of this was BlackBerry's entry into the tablet market with the PlayBook—and it means that the unfortunate device will be hooked to a life support machine until someone pulls the plug.

Following the release of Windows 8, Microsoft is facing the challenges of building its own app ecosystem. Apps are a cornerstone of the new platform, and the Redmond behemoth needs to foster and encourage developers to build compelling apps for the platform, apps that will encourage people to embrace the new platform and buy new hardware.

Suddenly, Surface Pro users have access to three quarters of a million Android apps, all a few clicks away.

Now, in the short term, particularly for those people who have invested in a Surface Pro tablet, this is a good thing. It gives them access to a whole host of apps that aren't currently available for the platform.

Problem is, what's good for Surface Pro owners today is not good for the platform as a whole. It means that developers can effectively ignore the embryonic platform and instead focus on platforms that are more lucrative — iOS and Android. That's a sure-fire way to prevent the platform from ever moving beyond the embryonic stage.

It seems that BlueStacks is aggressively targeting Windows 8 users. The company has already partnered with Lenovo, which is bundling the Android App Player on its Idea-branded consumer PCs. BlueStacks is obviously exploiting a gap in the market, and at least one OEM believes that embracing Android is the right move when it comes to Windows 8.

Trying to fix the shortcomings of one platform by shoehorning another alongside it is not good for anyone. It's not good for Microsoft because it is highlighting its failings when it comes to creating an app ecosystem, and distracting developers from embracing the platform. It is not good for Android because it will undoubtedly give users a patchy experience when some apps don't work as expected. And it is also not good for app developers, who may well end up being blamed for problems that have nothing to do with their app, but instead with the way it is being run.

And not to mention the fact that Android already suffers enough from fragmentation problems without adding emulators into the mix.

Windows 8 and the Surface Pro have to stand on their own two feet, and borrowing apps from the Android ecosystem isn't going to help either in the long term.

Topics: Microsoft Surface, Mobility, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • I really don't see

    how android emulation would have an effect on fragmentation. presumably it would be much easier to keep an emulator up to date than a fleet of physical devices.
    • Physical devices are not updated. The software is.

      Emulators or an OS are both software.
      Tim Jordan
    • Android is the ground zero of malware explosion

      We really don't want any emulators to bring the malware to Windows devices.
      • Right...

        Right, because Windows is such a "clean room." Uh how many patches are coming down from Microsoft today?
        • Patches

          All software has bugs. Unlike most others, Microsoft makes a serious effort to find and fix the bugs.
          • What a joke.

            Microsoft has always been behind the curve on updating and patches. EVERYONE else makes a serious effort to find and fix bugs. Most of them release the fix immediately, specially in the case of Linux derived systems like... oh I don't know... Android? Or Ubuntu? I love it when people who are so far behind the times don't realize that Microsoft isn't the best game in town anymore.
          • wrong

            Microsoft actually has the quickest turn around on patches than any other OS you can find this info on government malware monitor sites.
          • What are you comparing to?

            Amiga? Any company still alove?
          • Gotta pull out a Ron Burgandy quote here...

            "That doesn't make sense." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qtqp-RUw87M
          • You must be joking ...

            ... Or flat out wrong. If you have an Android handset, you almost never see an update as the carriers won't push them out. Google and the handset manufacturers do nothing to help that situation. Apple, whenever they get around to admitting there is a problem, seems to delight in letting the installed base beta test for them. With the latest Exchange and battery life fiascos on iOS 6.1 and 6.1.1, I've been forced to institute a ban on all Apple updates. Thinking of making that permanent. I've also had Ubuntu updates break stuff as modules get deprecated.

            Microsoft, OTOH, does this right. Updates are timely and I never have to think twice. It's been years since I had a Windows automatic update break anything. I'm sure it happens for some folks, but it seems to be really rare. Microsoft may not be the best at everything, but to knock them for their best-in-class update service is ridiculous.

            Which OS are you trolling for?
          • Bugs by design and thus need to patch becomes a "feature" rather than...

            a problem, and sure that "feature" could be called "best-in-class".

            I am not saying all software is perfect, but the patches you are talking about are delivered when they are likely to do 2 things: 1. "Solve" the issue they intend to (you'll never be sure but you can believe their word) and 2. Don't break anything else. I have issues with believing something I am NOT (likely) aware of in the first place.

            Desktop OS-es if that is your business, yes it is pretty comnfy to sit back and wait 'til they tell you two things: 1. That you "used" to have an issue, and 2. That it was solved by you clicking on the "yes" button.
          • Shadowmane, it's time...

            ...to put down the ABM koolaid. Seriously dude.
          • Fanboy alert!!!

            You did nooooot just compare windows with android lol... Android is a bug itself when compared with windows and Mac lol.. God must love stupid people.. Cuz he makes em in numbers haha..
        • Android fanboys!!!

          'Tis still wayyyyyyyy better than android which is not even a full fledged operating system... And ms actually tries to fix the bugs unlike google who rolls out cheap updates that hardly ever addresses the problems haha
          • Oh really?

            And just how many supercomputers run the NT kernel? Thought so...
      • Malware

        >>>We really don't want any emulators to bring the malware to Windows devices.

        You prefer your malware to run natively? :)
        • That's a great point.

          Many organizations run virtual servers rather than physical ones because they do offer an additional layer of protection from the actual, installed OS.
          If your Android emulator became corrupted because of Android malware (which a- there really isn't that much of, and b- there's antivirus solutions to scan and screen, just like a PC, if you feel vulnerable), no big deal - you could uninstall the emulator and your tablet would be fine. Reinstall the emulator, and it would be clean again.
        • Malware

          It is much better to run malware natively because there is less chance of sandboxing it from within an emulator. Good malware sticks around for the long haul, and continues to annoy the user forever.
      • Speak for yourself

        the thing seems neat to me. I am a total geek for emulator runtimes like Wine, etc. so my Windows very likely will have this!
        • Wine is for Linux what Bluestack is for Windows 8

          Kinda makes you wonder....Windows 8 on tablets is like Linux on PC.

          "I am a total geek for emulator runtimes like Wine" you will be glad to know then that they are working on Wine for Android so you can run Bluestack ->Wine -> Bluestack......