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Can Android and iOS Bridges Really Save Windows Phone?

Microsoft spent the last two days trying to convince its own and the rest of the software development community that building applications to its new Universal Windows Platform (UWP) will let them create innovative and competitive apps. Indeed providing a common architecture for PCs, tablets and Xbox is a lofty goal and has promising implications. Likewise HoloLens, Microsoft's virtual reality headgear, is a worthy attempt to create new capabilities, though its success remains to be seen. The move to provide interfaces that will let Android and iOS developers extend their apps to Windows -- and vice versa -- raised eyebrows this week. It could be a last-ditch effort to save Windows Phone from fading to obscurity but even if it can't save Microsoft's struggling smartphone, UWP could still be a hit in other ways.

In short, UWP will support everything from legacy Win32 apps in the new Windows Store to Web, Android and iOS apps. Michael Domingo, editor-in-chief- of Redmond magazine sister publication Visual Studio Magazine is at the Build conference this week. Domingo explained the various tools that will create these bridges. Among them Project Astoria is the Android runtime bridge, which can be used from the Android Studio IDE to refactor Android app code for the Windows 10 platform. It will include a Windows emulator, and is supposed to allow for debugging and testing of apps from either the Android IDE or Visual Studio IDE. The new Project Islandwood toolkit is an iOS bridge for developing from Objective C. Myerson demonstrated some of the progress his group has made with the tool, showing the ability to debug and test Xcode from within the Visual Studio IDE. Project Centennial is aimed at Windows developers who want a shortcut for recasting current .NET and Win32 Windows apps for the newer Windows Store.

"Windows 10 is going to enable you to reuse your Web code, your .NET and Win32 code, your Android, Java and C++ code, to build amazing new applications, bringing the code over, extending it, putting it in the Windows Store and reaching 1 billion Windows 10 customers," said Terry Myerson, executive vice president and leader of Microsoft's Windows team, in Wednesday's opening keynote at Build, held in San Francisco. Likewise, "you will be able to compile the same Objective C code that's being used in iOS applications within Visual Studio on Windows, enabling you to leverage that code and extend it with the capabilities only found on the Windows platform."

David Treadwell, a corporate VP for operating systems at Microsoft, yesterday demonstrated how Windows 10 will provide a bridge for the Universal Windows Platform and store.  "Apps written to these classic platform technologies will be able to be packaged and deployed with AppX," Treadwell said. "You'll get the same fast, safe, trusted deployment as apps written to the Universal Windows Platform."

Critics were quick to question how well Android and iOS apps will work on UWP, particularly Windows Phone. "Okay programmers, what do you get when you run something in emulation?" asked blogger Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols , on a ZDNet post. "That's right. You get slow performance."

Vaughan-Nichols, an expert on the open source community and Microsoft critic, had a more fundamental question: "If you're a Windows Phone or RT developer, may I ask why?" pointing to its below 4 percent and falling market share. "Microsoft has handed the keys to the Windows Mobile kingdom to Android and iOS programmers. Whether those developers will bother with it is another question. After the first flush of excitement, they too will face considerable technical and market problems getting their apps profitably on Windows. I think Microsoft is making a desperate play to stay relevant in the mobile space with its own operating system and it's one that's destined to fail."

Key to disproving the Vaughan-Nichols theory will be the ability to bridge these apps with ease, agility, speed and with no degradation in performance. Now that Microsoft has built it, will the developers come?

 

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/01/2015 at 12:18 PM


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