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

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?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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?

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