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Microsoft's Terry Myerson on Why Bringing Over Rival Apps Won't Destroy Windows

The head of Windows tells Re/code that Microsoft is convinced Android and iOS developers will stick with Windows once they give it a try.

Ina Fried

One of the biggest bombshells that Microsoft dropped at last week’s Build conference was its move to allow Android and iOS apps to be brought over to Windows 10.

While it makes sense as a strategy to attract mobile developers, the longer-term risk is high. Developers may just drop off their Android apps without really customizing for Windows or committing to Microsoft’s operating system.

“That will work for some set of apps, but that’s not what we are building for,” Windows boss Terry Myerson told Re/code in an interview at Build.

Myerson said that the company recognized that with Windows 8 it was making developers largely start from scratch. While some did, many others took a pass.

“We all are trying to learn everything we can from the past,” he said.

Allowing developers to bring their existing code lowers the bar and may interest developers who previously made the calculation that building for Windows wasn’t worth it.

That’s only one piece of the puzzle though. In the end, Myerson knows the only way to attract and keep developers is by building a larger market of users. Microsoft predicted it will have one billion devices running Windows 10 by the end of June 2018.

That’s in sharp contrast to the current state of affairs for Windows. While Windows 8 shipped on a large number of computers, users spent a lot of their time running classic Windows desktop apps rather than the new style of Windows Store apps. And with Windows Phone, the numbers just weren’t big enough to attract mobile developers already stretched thin writing for Apple and Google.

With Windows 10, Microsoft is bringing together its PC and phone operating systems and allowing apps to appear in a single storefront. In the past, Windows PC and phone apps were sold separately. Microsoft is also promising heavy promotion for these new universal apps.

As for Microsoft’s tools to bring over apps from rival operating systems, it’s important to understand that all apps aren’t treated the same. Android developers will be able to bring their code over to Windows 10 essentially as is, though any code that relies on Google services, such as Maps or the Play Store, will have to be replaced with Windows services. It’s an effort known as “Project Astoria,” and developers have to apply to be part of it, at least for now.

With “Project Islandwood” for iOS, developers can bring their code into Microsoft’s Visual Studio programming tool, but they will have to tweak and re-compile it. While that is more work, it will let developers do some Windows-specific customization that is not as simple for those bringing over Android apps.

Microsoft has also created a way to turn older Windows apps into modern Windows Store apps, as well as a way to package Web content as an app.

All these are designed to make stepping into the world of Windows easier. Its next trick will be to coax these new entrants into the Windows world to optimize these apps for Windows.

“I think if we provide the right on-ramps for developers, I think great things will result,” Myerson said.

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