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It’s common knowledge that Microsoft has an app problem, both with Windows and Windows Phone. The state of both has been improving steadily for a while now, but developers still largely don’t care anywhere nearly as much as they do about Android or iOS.
Internally, Microsoft has explored various ways of offering Android apps on Windows and Windows Phone, including by way of an emulator (similar to how BlackBerry allows Android apps to run on its devices). The rumor that Android apps will one day run on Windows devices is one that simply refuses to die.
While such a strategy is attractive for many reasons, mainly because it could potentially solve the app quantity problem on Windows quickly, it’s the wrong approach. Microsoft should instead woo Android and iOS developers to use its developer tools, and then deploy their apps to Google Play and/or Apple’s App Store, in addition to the Windows Store.
That way, the company avoids potential performance problems, possible legal issues, and can still ensure apps are built specifically for Windows 10, as opposed to simply getting a flood of apps repurposed from other platforms. The pitch would be quite straightforward: “Use the best developer tools on the planet to build apps that reach the millions of new Windows 10 devices on top of the millions of Android and iOS devices.”
Microsoft’s next step is to offer tools that could directly compete with Apple’s and Google’s offerings. iOS tools are already quite advanced and Google has finally ramped up its efforts with Android Studio, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to wedge in between the two.
It’s no wonder the rumor of Microsoft acquiring Xamarin, which lets developers use C# to build native Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows apps, keeps popping up every few months. When it comes to supporting programming languages for building on non-Microsoft platforms, there’s absolutely no reason why Microsoft should stop at HTML.
Despite its failures in mobile, Redmond is still known for how well it supports developers. And again, the company would be able to make a very unique offer: If you use our tools, you’ll simply be able to reach more users. Instead of developing for just Android, or just iOS, or even just Android and iOS, why not build for Android and Windows 10, or iOS and Windows 10, or all three?
That’s something Apple would never do, and given its disregard for Windows Phone, neither would Google. Despite a multitude of mistakes in mobile, Microsoft still finds itself in a very powerful position: It has the money, resources, and expertise to win over developers. Furthermore, even though Windows Phone is a very distant third to Android and iOS, the Windows Store on Windows 10 will be pushed to millions of users because it will work across PCs, tablets, and smartphones. That’s potentially very enticing for app developers.
In short, Microsoft needs to expand its cross-platform strategy for developers. The perfect time is coming to do exactly that: The company’s Build conference is just a month away.
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