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

Installing an Android emulator on a Surface Pro tablet is not the way to go to plaster the gaps in Microsoft's app ecosystem.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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.

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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.

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