Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled a plan to make forthcoming Windows 10 PCs, tablets and smartphones compatible with apps previously written for Google's and Apple’s more popular mobile devices, which run the Android and iOS operating systems, respectively.
The move is meant to overcome what will undoubtedly be one of the biggest roadblocks to sales of Windows 10 hardware -- the Microsoft ecosystem is weak on app selection compared with its rivals. As of last year, there were 1.3 million available Android apps and 1.2 million iOS apps but just 300,000 Windows apps, according to Statista.
Microsoft Executive Vice President Terry Myerson announced the plan at the company’s Build 2015 developer conference in San Francisco.
Microsoft’s Windows Phones will have “an Android subsystem” that will make it relatively easy for developers to port apps already written in the Java and C++ programming languages for Android to Windows 10, Myerson said. The technology will also let some of those apps run on Microsoft’s Xbox gaming system. Microsoft is developing similar software to allow Windows Phones to emulate the iPhone environment so they can run iOS apps.
Microsoft’s hope is that developers who may ordinarily bypass Windows mobile devices will have an incentive to tweak their offerings for what is still a potentially huge customer base. Myerson said his goal is to see at least a billion Windows 10 devices, including PCs, phones and tablets like the new Surface 3, in the market by the summer of 2015.
Myerson said King Digital, the developer of the hit mobile game "Candy Crush," has already agreed to make some of its games available for Windows 10 under the program.
Myerson’s goal may be overly ambitious. Microsoft’s share of the U.S. mobile market as of January was just 3.6 percent, according to Comscore. By contrast, Apple’s share was 41.3 percent, while market leader Google Android held 53.2 percent.
Still, the plan is consistent with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s goal to make Microsoft “a platform company” that develops products and services that work across a broad spectrum of technologies.