Would (and should) Microsoft enable Android apps on Windows?

Would (and should) Microsoft enable Android apps on Windows?

Summary: Microsoft management is believed to be debating the technical and strategic wisdom of enabling Android apps on Windows and Windows Phone devices. But would such a move hurt or help Microsoft?


The Verge's Tom Warren isn't crazy (at least in one respect). But whether Microsoft officials are may be up for debate.


Like Warren, I've heard Microsoft's top honchos have been debating whether they should enable Android apps to run natively on Windows and Windows Phone. (I mentioned this in passing in my February Redmond Magazine column, entitled "What Android's Inclusion in Windows Means for Microsoft," but downplayed it because I felt it was more of an "everything's on the table" possibility rather than something likely to happen.)

If Microsoft were to decide to do this, there'd be a number of technical, strategic and positioning hoops through which the operating systems team would have to jump.

It's not that it would be technically impossible. BlueStacks already offers users a way to run Android apps on Windows. In fact, it was a year ago today that BlueStacks released its Surface Pro-optimized Windows 8 version of its App Player software that allows users to download and run any Android App on their Windows devices.

SweetLabs also has offered Windows users a way to load Android and other non-native Windows apps on their Windows machines. With its Pokki suite, SweetLabs provides users with an app store and a game arcade (along with a Start Button/Start Menu). The Pokki app store lets users download from a single location traditional PC desktop apps, Windows Store apps, third-party Web/social apps and "unique" Pokki-customized versions of apps like Instgram and Twitter.

Many things are in flux right now. Nokia, as we've heard, is believed to have built an Android-based phone that will be able to run Microsoft apps and services. Windows OEMs have announced plans for machines that run both Windows and Android.

The biggest issue for Microsoft, in my view, would be how to explain its new Android-embracing strategy to its existing developer base. Why should developers still bother writing apps for Windows -- and especially the fledgling Windows Store/Metro Style market -- if they could simply write to the larger Android marketplace and have their apps available on Windows? Microsoft currently doesn't allow legacy Windows apps to be downloaded from the Windows Store right now. (They can be listed but not downloaded from there.) Should Android apps get a leg up in this respect?

One Windows Store app developer, Brandon Paddock -- the developer of my favorite Windows 8 Twitter client Tweetium -- wondered aloud whether Microsoft might simply be looking to allow Android games on Windows, not necessarily other kinds of apps. Even if the team were to only allow Android games onto the platform, I still think such a move would be a huge demotivator for Microsoft's established developer base.

What do you say, Microsoft developers and users? Would you be in favor of Microsoft bringing Android apps to Windows and Windows Phone? Why or why not?

Topics: Windows 8, Android, Microsoft, Software Development, Windows Phone


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Because Microsoft hates their users?

    And wants to undermine their attempts at native applications? Because that's the only reasons I can think of for why they would want to shoot their selves and their services on the head like that.

    If I wanted Android, I would have bought an Android device.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Cant we just get along?

      Regular old Windows allows third party apps to be installed, even other operating systems to be virtualized. I think it would be cool to have an Android apps running on Win Phone, although most would be redundant. However there is no chance for iOS apps unless Apple gets a cut $$$.
      Sean Foley
      • Third party apps...

        Are still written using Windows APIs and programming languages. This would undermine all of that. Nobody would return to Microsoft native services or languages.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
        • Are they already undermining Satya?

          How did this discussion leak to the media?

          Someone must have leaked it from the meeting.

          They should at least give the new CEO Satya Nadella a chance to discuss the options, without leaking it to the press.
          • No one is undermining

            It's OK. Nokia is releasing an Android phone. Microsoft is contemplating running Android apps. Wow! Microsoft is barely able to keep up with their competitors who are vigorously making improvements all the time. If Microsoft wants to sell mobile devices they need to upgrade their operating system by getting rid of Windows and using the number one operating system in the world, the Android version of Linux. They could make modifications, Microsoftify it, just like Nokia is planning, but as long as they try to push the clunky Windows crap, Microsoft is going to have problems. It's a new world and Microsoft needs to adapt, or perish. The only folks that are interested in running legacy Windows applications are corporate system administrators with legacy skills who also need to adapt, or retire. Anyone who's ever had to administrate Active Directory or Share Point or create virtual machines on a Microsoft server knows how god awful Microsoft technology is....or if they don't know, they've never tried Linux. Well, maybe they have tried Linux and they didn't realize it. Google, Facebook, Amazon, all the stock exchanges, and most of the rest of the world run Linux. It will eliminate a lot of redundancy and improve efficiency if Microsoft dumps Windows and switches to Linux. To me it's never been a question of if they should, it's more a question of when will it happen.
          • YES!

            And stop charging horrendous prices for their software, release their code sources so anyone could clone it or use it for free, stop making stupid decisions not supported by the user base, like getting rid of menus and start buttons, etc. I can see it now: Windows 9, a new Linux flavor! Get it now while it's free!
            On the other hand.. nah, they'll just go the way of IBM and find some other way to make money, although their name will still be around.
            Microsoft Grocers, anyone? Could be a huge competitor to Wal-mart!
          • Yeah right.

            dump windows, dump sharepoint, dump office, dump everything that brings in over 15 billion in revenue a quarter. You sir make Steve Balmer look like a genius.
            Richard Callaway
          • Android apps on Windows Phone can make sense...

            Here's the reality--there are a lot of people who want to buy a Windows Phone... but there's one or two must-have apps that are keeping them from making the plunge. If allowing Android apps to run on Windows Phone will get these people to switch... thus, increasing Windows Phone's market share, then I think it's a good idea.

            As Windows Phone gains more market share, more developers will write special apps for Windows Phone... because they'll simply run better than the Android app.

            Microsoft needs to break the chicken and egg death spiral of Windows Phone. They can do that by allowing Android apps on Windows Phone. I say... "DO IT."
          • With market share, developers may CHOOSE Windows Phone...

            If Windows Phone's market share grows (because people can also run Android apps)... in time (because of the additional market share), I believe that developers may choose to develop for Windows Phone instead of Android and/or before Android. Why? Because the development tools for Windows are simply better and easier to use.

            Microsoft desperately needs to break the chicken-and-egg cycle of "there's little market share so developers won't create apps" (and vice versa). With Android apps, we finally can break the "no apps" cycle... and market share may very well follow. And with market share... will come development of apps.
        • Not necessarily.

          Windows supports UNIX libraries just fine, even if they are forced to be a bit slow (though that might have been "fixed" by now).
          • Sort of

            Last I heard, the Windows POSIX subsystem was incomplete and way out of date. That's part of why Cygwin exists.
            John L. Ries
          • Cygwin existed well before Windows POSIX subsystem.

            And it provided more.

            But either one shows that it can be done.
          • Not so

            POSIX support was part of the original Windows NT. It's been much neglected ever since.
            John L. Ries
          • That was a loooooong time ago

            The POSIX-1 compliant subsystem was removed in XP/Server2003.

            Microsoft subsequently bought and shaped Interim, but, simply put, there just wasn't enough demand for it so it too was put out to pasture.
          • Really?

            I thought POSIX compliance was still required for a lot of government-related contracts and whatnot. I wouldn't have thought MS would be able to give up on POSIX ... unless they were ok with giving up on government sales.

            Interesting. I'll have to Google more about this.
          • Wasn't aware

            Thanks for the clarification.
            John L. Ries
          • MS must rewrite their file systems, not just the libraries

            Maybe one can get a Android app to run on Android, but Linux security is assumed on every "object". Microsoft FAT is used for the users, and access to various parts of the file systems is implemented by the file system. So, all Window phones that emulates Android, will run with the security of a "rooted" phone - unless Microsoft adopts the "ext3" or "ext4" file system.
            The "Unix Libraries" are the basic C libraries, and does not address security, incomplete tcp/ip and faulty "malloc()" / "memory leakage".
          • NTFS has appropriate security

            It's frequently not administered correctly (a consequence of Windows' origins), but it's there and it works.
            John L. Ries
          • But wait, there's more!

            Windows NT also supported "native" OS/2 apps.
          • Maybe OS/2 v1

            But I'm not all that certain about that any more. 32 bit OS/2 apps have never run under Windows NT.
            John L. Ries