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article imageMicrosoft scraps its plan to make Android apps work on Windows

By James Walker     Feb 26, 2016 in Technology
Microsoft has officially announced that its ambitious quest to get Android apps running on Windows has failed and development has been discontinued. The project is believed to have run into issues months ago, possibly including legal problems.
Microsoft announced four different "bridges" at its Build developer conference last year. The "bridges" are intended to give app developers an easy route to getting their existing apps running on Windows 10.
Three of the bridges are doing well. Project Islandwood lets iOS developers bring their existing code to the Windows Store with only minor changes and has already been utilised. Project Westminster gives web developers a way to make their websites run as a Windows 10 app and use features of the operating system, including notifications, Cortana and live tiles. Westminster has proved to be popular with development teams of all sizes and has seen high-profile use by apps including Shazam and Yahoo Mail.
Project Centennial remains under internal development but will be released soon. It lets the creators of traditional Windows desktop apps update these mouse-friendly programs to support touch input and Windows Store controls. The final bridge, Project Astoria, is now confirmed dead though.
Astoria was initially seen as arguably the most exciting bridge. Unlike the others, it didn't require any tweaking of Android code. Instead, Windows 10 included its own Android emulator that could run existing Android apps natively on the operating system.
Some preview builds of Windows 10 Mobile included this emulator. Users were able to unlock access to the feature and successfully install and run Android apps on their Windows phones, using packages downloaded from the Internet without any modification.
Developers of Android apps would have been able to bring them to Android without any code editing at all. This could have quickly increased the number of apps in the Windows Store as developers would be able to target millions more users with minimal effort. Unfortunately, this unique feature may have been Astoria's downfall.
In the last quarter of 2015, it became obvious that development wasn't going ahead as planned. The Astoria team fell silent on the official project forum and the emulator disappeared from Windows 10. In November, the Project Astoria website was closed down, seemingly sealing the project's fate, but Microsoft has only just confirmed that Astoria is no more.
There are multiple reasons that explain the death of a unique and interesting method of making mobile apps platform independent. Implementing the required features may not be one of them though as the Android subsystem found in Windows 10 appeared to be functional many months ago. Instead, the cause is likely to be rooted elsewhere.
Many Windows developers were unhappy about Astoria's existence. From their point of view, there would be no reason to write apps specifically for Windows 10 in Microsoft's language with Astoria available. Instead, it would have made much more commercial sense to write for the enormous Android platform first. After all, the app would run in the same way on Windows, with no modification. Writing apps for Windows would have no meaning.
There is also speculation that Astoria ran into murky waters surrounding Microsoft's use of Google's technology. It effectively included the core components of the Android operating system inside its own software and allowed developers to use this to copy and paste apps written for Android. Google may have quietly had a word behind the scenes, forcing Microsoft to drown the project.
Microsoft didn't reference any of this controversy in yesterday's official announcement of the end of Astoria. It said: "We received a lot of feedback that having two Bridge technologies to bring code from mobile operating systems to Windows was unnecessary, and the choice between them could be confusing. We have carefully considered this feedback and decided that we would focus our efforts on the Windows Bridge for iOS and make it the single Bridge option for bringing mobile code to all Windows 10 devices, including Xbox and PCs. For those developers who spent time investigating the Android Bridge, we strongly encourage you to take a look at the iOS Bridge and Xamarin as great solutions."
Developers now have one less route to get their current apps onto Windows 10. Projects Islandwood, Westminster and Centennial remain in active development and use though and early signs indicate they are becoming popular among app creators. Centennial has yet to break out of Microsoft but developer attention is reportedly strong already, indicating people are interested in putting their software in the Windows Store if they don't have to rewrite it specially.
More about Microsoft, Windows, windows 10, Apps, Android
 
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