iPhone and Android Apps on Windows 10 Devices? Yes You Can!

Microsoft's Risky Attempt to Draw More Developers.

Windows Phone
Windows Phone. Courtesy Microsoft

Do you own a Windows Phone or Windows-based tablet like the Microsoft Surface? If you're like most people, the answer is: "What, are you kidding? Of course not!"

This is despite the fact the both Windows Phones and Windows tablets are fine devices. But, especially for Windows Phone, the public is barely aware that they're even available, despite many, many millions of Microsoft marketing dollars.

If you go into a phone store, you'll see Android and iPhones up front, and typically many different models.

There's usually a Windows Phone or two somewhere around, but often near the back. If you ask a salesperson about it, they may ask you why you'd be interested, and try to steer you to Android or iPhone.

An App Ghost Town

One of the main reasons -- in fact, I'd argue it's the main reason -- they'll give you for avoiding Windows Phone is the lack of apps available. It's a major problem for Microsoft -- developers follow the dollars, which follow the market. They don't see any profit in developing Windows Phone apps, so there are fewer apps, which means fewer Windows Phones sold. That means fewer customers and even fewer apps, in a never-ending downward trend.

Microsoft has decided to go all out to stop that death spiral, in a move that could be brilliant -- or backfire. Microsoft is allowing Android and iOS apps to be used on its forthcoming Windows 10 (due out in late July) operating system (OS).

What it means is that if you buy a Windows Phone or Surface tablet (or any other Windows 10 device), you'll be able to use your favorite apps on it. In fact, at a recent conference, Microsoft announced that the phenomenally popular game Candy Crush has already been ported to (i.e., made available on) Windows 10.

One warning is that not every app on those other two platforms will be immediately downloadable once Windows 10 is out. The app developer has to make it available in the Microsoft Store, but it should be a trivially easy process for the developer, making it likely that many of them will offer it. Once that occurs, you can download and use it, just as you would on your iPhone, iPad, Android Phone or Android tablet.

A Bold Move

It's a bold play by Microsoft. By opening up its Windows platform to the wider world of Android and iOS, it will encourage consumers to take another look at Windows Phone and the Surface tablet. If the public likes it, the effect on sales could be dramatic -- Microsoft lags so far behind the leaders that it needs high-powered binoculars to even see them. And, if more Windows Phones are bought, it would kick off a positive upward cycle for developers, who would develop more apps specifically for Windows phone, since they'll be making money off of it.

The risk to Microsoft is that developers may not bother to develop for Windows Phone any more than they are right now. After all, if you're a mobile apps developer and you can just move your completed apps over to Windows 10, why should you make a special effort to develop on the Windows platform itself?

I think the bigger risk, however, is continuing to fall further and further behind Android and iPhone. Competition is a good thing in the market, and a third viable competitor would only boost innovation on all three platforms, and also bring prices down.

Write Once, Run Anywhere

One other notable aspect of apps in Windows 10 is the concept of Universal Windows apps. These apps are built for one operating system -- Windows 10 -- and can be run on any Windows 10 device, whether it's a desktop, laptop, phone, tablet, or even the Xbox game console. As I've written earlier, this means that developers don't have to rewrite each app for the multitudes of different computers on which it'll be used.

Anything that Microsoft can do to encourage developers is a good thing for customers.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has identified the chief problem with its mobile devices, and taken a huge, but necessary, step to fix it. The company only has to hope that it's not too late.