700-nokia_lumia_1520_group-shot_1One of the major problems facing Windows Phone is the relative immaturity of its app ecosystem. Microsoft has worked hard to encourage developers to work with the platform, but many aren’t releasing top apps for Windows Phone at the same time they’re launching apps and features for Android and iOS.

To combat that, Microsoft may allow Windows Phone devices to run Android, according to a new rumor. Eldar Murtazin, a Russian tech blogger and analyst, tweeted earlier today that “MS adopted VM for execution of Android apps on WP. All Lumia devices will support it.” Murtazin has a pretty good track record when it comes to these sorts of rumors, which means there’s a good chance Microsoft is at least investigating Android emulation. 

Doing such a thing should be technically feasible. All Android apps run in a virtual machine, and BlackBerry already supported Android app emulation on its ill-fated PlayBook tablet. With its acquisition of Nokia, Microsoft already has a line of Android devices available through the Nokia X brand, so the company clearly has Android expertise at the ready.

Microsoft did not confirm or deny the rumors.

“There are a lot of rumors out there about our plans for the future, but we believe Windows Phone is the best platform for developers to create rich, differentiated apps and for users to get the most personal experience of any platform,” a Microsoft spokesperson told GeekWire via email.

Nokia-X2-Dual-SIM-appsBut there are still a number of lingering questions about running Android apps on Windows Phone. First and foremost, it’s unclear how Microsoft would plan to get Android apps onto a device. Manually downloading and installing an APK file isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do, which means that Microsoft would want some sort of app store for Android apps.

Introducing Android support to Lumia devices could draw more Android developers to publish their apps on the store used by Nokia X devices, but that wouldn’t give consumers instant access to the massive Android catalog available through Google’s Play Store.

Android OEMs that want to license the Play Store have to license other Google apps and products like Gmail and Google Hangouts, which is probably something Microsoft wants to avoid. What’s more, Google might not be willing to make a deal anyway, since Microsoft already gets licensing fees for patents that Android allegedly infringes.

On top of all that, BlackBerry’s experiment with the PlayBook showed that getting Android emulation right is hard. The system was plagued with bugs, and apps often crashed or broke without warning. It may not be worth adding Android capability to Windows Phone if the apps don’t work right.

There’s also a question about what a move like this could do to the developer ecosystem for Windows Phone. If developers looking to cover all their bases just need to write one app to run on both Android and Windows Phone, that won’t solve the problem of Windows Phone lacking native apps. That, in turn, could limit customer lock-in. If people are primarily using Android apps on their Windows Phone devices, they may not feel the need to stick with Microsoft’s operating system in the future.

What do you think? Should Microsoft start supporting Android apps, or stay the course with native Windows Phone apps only? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

  • tsupasat

    This would convince me to get a Windows Phone. I like the hardware and the OS, but the lack of apps is a major drawback.

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  • Lee Pridemore

    A smartphone user utilizes only thirty to forty apps. What is not available in the Windows Phone ecosystem that I can’t live without? I’m going to keep my Nokia Lumia 930 hairless of Android.

    • Richard Sequeira

      The problem lies with the popularisation of several apps. For a while Windows Phone 7 and Phone 8 users did not have apps like Twitter, Facebook, and a few other. Then there’s the whole fiasco with the YouTube application.

      Much rather deal with the heavily fragmented Android OS. Heck even Android 4.0 users get better apps.

    • Shivam Parikh

      Does your smartphone run Candy Crush? ..that being said I’m also on Windows Phone 8.1 (Lumia 1020)

  • Francine

    They need all the apps android offers but not through android. I love nokias but I won’t be getting another until windows can keep up with the competition, but they have to have apps made purely for windows or you may as well just get an android phone… Please Microsoft sort your apps out and quickly…

    • B

      The problem isn’t Microsoft per se, it’s convincing the developers of Candy Crush/Clash of Clans/whatever to support WP in addition to the big 2

  • Samir Shah

    Android phones or phones that run Android Apps? Anything Microsoft does that does not have access to the play store is half-baked.

    I still think that the best approach is not to have phones at all and concentrate on tablets and the “Cortana phone.” Again that needs guts. Supporting Windows Phone OS is costing Microsoft Billions with a capital B. Say to the customers that Microsoft tried and tried but could not give customers the smorgasbord of Apps that a customer needs. So Microsoft says Microsoft screwed up like what Tim Cook did about Apple Maps. Microsoft could not give customers Apps so Microsoft is shutting the Windows Phone and directing customers to Android or iOS (I do not know the legal ramifications so pardon me for that).

    For tablets, the story is different, Microsoft has x86 based desktop mode and that desktop mode has desktop applications which may be approaching millions, These will tide customers over till Modern UI based Applications arrive. But if a customer is hell bent on using the Modern UI, Microsoft has a detachable Surface 3 or a 2520. For tablets like Surface 3 we have x86 based desktop mode that acts as a buffer till people are ready to move to Modern UI. Each person and each enterprise will move at their own pace. Forcing Modern UI on customers was the main problem in Windows 8 and Microsoft paid for it dearly with the low uptake of Windows 8.

    In Windows 8.1 Update 2 or Windows 9 customers will ALWAYS boot up in desktop mode until they choose Modern UI boot up.

    For hardware, Microsoft needs to push Intel to get REAL FAN FREE Broadwell chips for Surface 4 that is also good in performance. If need be Microsoft may want to buy a fabless semiconductor company to make Microsoft’s own chipset or design that goes around or with Broadwell. Intel should be game with these because it is a question of survival.

    SURFACE PRO 3 IS PURE GENIUS.

  • why

    Do you even know what it involves running those app on the Win platform? How would you address the look and feel the app lifecycle…Come back to earth.

  • Oscar Pucillo

    Windows should provide native VM support for Android on the desktop also. And Windows does not need the Google Play store. There is AppBrain for Android, remember? There is also the Amazon app store. But there is no reason to avoid the Google services, since pretty much everyone who has Gmail installs them on Windows anyway. Just like nearly everyone with an Android phone syncs their Microsoft accounts.

    Microsoft is getting hammered on both ends. Android is open source. Why not utilize Android to sell their own OS and hardware? Being able to play Android games and use fast, lightweight Android apps (as opposed to their bloated software) would be excellent. If you can’t beat them, join them, and they are certainly not beating them.

    Were Google to give up on ChromeOS and turn Android into a legitimate OS for laptops, it would be game over for Microsoft. Fortunately, Google is too dumb to realize that, just like they were too dumb to include tablets in their Android One program.

    • Kyle

      I agree Google should give up on ChromeOS. But I don’t think Android would be any more legitimate as a desktop OS than Linux.

  • vijay

    Already Blackberry 10 is doing it.

  • Anthony James

    just a bad idea bc what about infringing rights from google play store? my brother own a mp3 android for a few hrs and even me i could barely control on how to use it, even where the security was for blocking the youtube app, its so easy to do on apple, hrs later, went back to best buy and gave him n iPod touch 4g, 3 1/2 yrs before ipodt5.

    other than that, it all comes down to money on who is getting it, android is a company and so is windows, android used google play 1st and now windows is thinking on doing it too?

    so much for competition for people who wants a phone from android that people might go get windows instead makes android loose money all bc windows is starting to get google play store as well.

    other than windows isn’t based off a linux system like Android and iOS/OSX is. they real should’ve gave more thought on making a windows store program like iTunes & App Store without making the whole system a tablet based touchscreen more.

    personally, they should’ve at least gave us simple as a small program to be easy to install like iTunes is and just grow from there.

    I only remember bits n pecies of myself on a 90’s apple mac in our elementary school which had games on it, it didn’t even had iTunes first and wasn’t booming yet other than computers were the start of the era is/was, but now, they should’ve been more prepare for this and getting rid of the start button besides hiding it but changing it to a UI window is the 1st mistake they did, now theres program with cool start button and menu’s that you can make a windows store look like an actual iTunes window. Can’t remember what is called now since I’ve gotten rid of 8 and went back to mavericks and windows xp, use a little of 7 but i do have my laptop with 7 that i will still use time to time when i need a intel my hotspot.

    est. 25-27% still uses windows xp so no jokes here plz.

  • Kyle

    As a developer I think it’s a great idea. I don’t think they should go after the Google Play Store, I just don’t think that’s going to happen and if they could, there would be no clean way of integrating it into the Windows Phone. Intead, they should allow developers to publish apk files to the Windows Phone Store, so it would be up to them. It would save a huge amount of time and development costs and I guarantee you most active developers would take advantage of that.

    One issue I have is that the look and feel of Android apps is different than windows phone. The Application Lifecycle is different and the apps are laid out differently. If Microsoft is going to do this, they should do it right and provide libraries to create Windows Phone looking interfaces in Android.

    My other concern is the buggy VM. It would take a lot of development and time to get it rock solid and running Android apps would have to be absolutely seamless… to the point the user doesn’t even know it’s an Android app. Also, in order for users to run 3d android games, the phone will need a huge amount of memory and the VM would have to be highly optimized and have OpenGL support. These things are not easy, but it can be done.

  • Leonardo Monday

    having a official gmail app for WP would be great … but google and Ms are always pissing each other off : P

  • KILLERKRAB

    I have a Windows phone and am thinking about getting an android because of the lacking apps. Windows has 1 app for every 15 android or apple have. I love the phone but I don’t love it enough to give up all the apps.

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