When Microsoft told us that Windows 10 would run universal apps, we got the gist of what it meant. Developers would be able to create apps that ran on desktop, tablet, and smartphone version of Windows 10 with the same codebase. It makes for a streamlined app creation process for developers and gives Windows Phone users — who have traditionally been left in the dust when it comes to app support compared to iOS and Android platforms — hope that things will be different once Windows 10 comes around.
However, today’s news from Microsoft – courtesy of BUILD 2015 -- was totally unexpected and quite frankly a game changer for anyone that has stuck by Microsoft’s side as its Windows Phone platform has failed to gain traction in the smartphone market place. Microsoft is making it relatively easy for iOS and Android developers to port their apps over to Windows using two brand new SDKs.
For Android developers, Microsoft has an SDK that targets Java and C++ code. On the iOS side, Microsoft has another SDK which will allow developers to port their Objective C code. While there will still be some hard work involved to port fully functional Android and iOS apps over to Windows 10, Microsoft is trying to make things as easy as possible by allowing developers to compile their code within Visual Studio.
This move could help to close the app gap between Windows Phone/Windows 10 and Android/iOS, but it isn’t exactly the most elegant solution. When I hear the word “port”, I immediately think compromise. And while a ported app from Android or iOS is better than no app at all, it likely still won’t be as good an app that’s built from the ground up with the Windows 10 platform in mind. And there’s also the fact that Android and iOS apps often have UI peculiarities that are specific to their respective platforms — this might not always jive with what users have come to expect from design aesthetic found in typical Windows apps.
Regardless of the downsides to app porting, this is definitely a big step forward for Windows 10. However, developers will have to make the effort to use the tools that Microsoft has provided. Although for me personally, I’d rather that developers build dedicated Windows 10 apps than go the porting route.