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Are Microsoft about to introduce Android apps to Windows Phone?

There is speculation that Microsoft could be planning a major change in strategy when it comes to apps on Windows Phone devices. The company is said to be considering introducing Android apps to its smartphone platform.

Whilst Windows Phone offers a pretty decent user experience, its one serious weakness is arguably app availability. There is still no official version of Snapchat available for Windows Phone, and the platform is missing many popular banking and newspaper apps.

A number of well-liked video services are also unavailable for Windows Phone. In the UK, for example, there are no Windows Phone apps for either Sky Go or BT Sport.

It is important to retain perspective, though. Overall, as far as availability of popular apps is concerned, Windows Phone is in a relatively healthy state.

Apps for Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, LINE, YouTube, Twitter, Spotify, Kindle, BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, Netflix and Deezer have all been released on Windows Phone.

Microsoft clearly has a decent starting point to build upon with developers. It is therefore highly debatable as to whether such as drastic move as allowing Android apps to run on Windows Phone devices is really necessary.

Ensuring that a healthy number of Android apps run smoothly on Windows Phone devices would likely prove to be a difficult task. Android compatibility has been promised with the likes of BlackBerry 10, Sailfish OS and Tizen, with somewhat mixed results.

Although it is true the BlackBerry 10, Sailfish and Tizen can all run Android apps, there has certainly been no big surge of developers porting their apps over to these platforms.

Not every Android app can run on BlackBerry 10, Sailfish and Tizen. Although this is hardly surprising, considering that native Android smartphones and tablets are not typically able to run all of the apps that are available in Google Play.

There is also a strong argument that an Android compatibility layer on Windows Phone would blunt Microsoft’s strongest weapon.

Although Windows Phone only has a small market share, it is Microsoft that is closest to providing a seamless transition between the desktop and mobile experience. Any cheap Windows 8.1 tablet can provide a good illustration of this – Metro apps are complimented by the possibility of running familiar desktop software.

Testing and development of Windows 10 is well underway, and it is expected that Microsoft’s next OS will offer the ability to run Windows Phone apps.

But if Android apps were to be made available on Windows Phone devices, that would impact the convergence of Microsoft’s desktop and mobile operating systems.

Microsoft could introduce Android app compatibility to both Windows Phone and Windows 10, but doing so would increase the number of compatibility issues.

The other factor to consider is that there is much less justification for Microsoft to introduce Android apps to its desktop OS, than is the case with Windows Phone. As Microsoft already has a healthy market share with the more traditional edition of Windows, it should have less long-term difficulties chasing developer support as far as desktop apps are concerned.

Android app support could actually have a negative effect on the health of Microsoft’s ecosystem, as it would mean that developers had less of an incentive to produce native Windows apps.

[via Android Authority]