Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) knows its losing ground fast to mobile developers on Android as well as iOS, and during its keynote at the Windows BUILD conference in San Francisco it presented a plan to turn things around.
On stage at BUILD Microsoft announced two projects: Islandwood and Astoria. Islandwood is an SDK that allows iOS developers to port their apps to Windows. According to reports, when porting Candy Crush Saga from Windows to iOS, developers only had to change a “few percent” of code. The trick, says Microsoft, is to provide a middleware layer that provides the APIs that iOS apps expect.
The next project is Astoria. This is the package that will allow Windows apps to run in Android. While Microsoft has long tried Android emulation, that approach does not work as well and leads to big hits in performance. However unlike Islandwood, Astoria will not require developers to re-tool their code. Instead, upcoming versions of Windows Mobile will include an Android runtime layer to allow for apps to run without modification.
What does this mean for Microsoft?
For Microsoft, this is an acknowledgement that it will never be able to compete OS-to-OS on the same level as Android and iOS. It needs to somehow “win back” developers from Android and iOS, platforms which have had incredible growth over the past seven years. If Microsoft reduces the barriers to porting apps from Android or iOS to Windows, and allows developers to effectively recycle the same code then Microsoft should be able to win back some market share in places where it fiercely competes with with these two platforms.
Microsoft wants Windows 10 to eventually be on a billion devices. While this will include PCs, it will certainly be a herculean challenge for the company, moves like this are certainly a push in the right direction.