Much to the dismay of some viewers watching at home, Microsoft's BUILD developer conference today actually focused on technologies designed to benefit developers. However, some of the new developer technologies shown today may end up having profound impacts on Windows users. While Microsoft has never had any issues with making software available for Windows on the desktop, the same can't be said about Windows in the mobile space. Windows Phones and tablets have suffered from a lack of applications compared to their Android and iOS counterparts, and Microsoft hasn't been able to convince many developers to make Windows a priority for their mobile applications. Given this situation, Microsoft had to find another solution to the problem, and today at BUILD they showed what may very well be it.

The first big announcement was Project Astoria, which enables support for running Android applications programmed in Java or C++ on Windows 10 phones. During the keynote this was described as an "Android Subsystem" within Windows. The end result is that developers can bring their Android applications over to Windows 10 phones with minimal effort. There will still be issues with applications that link into Google Play services for features like Maps and location, but there are now far fewer hurdles for developers than there have been in the past. Microsoft demonstrated this during the keynote by showing the Choice Hotels application for Android running on a Windows 10 smartphone. The demo did run into a few issues, but it was still impressive to see.

What's even more remarkable is Microsoft's work to allow developers to use existing code from iOS applications programmed in Objective C to make Windows 10 applications. This new initiative is called Project Islandwood, and it allows developers can take their existing applications written in Objective C, have Visual Studio convert the Xcode project into a Visual Studio solution, and compile it for Windows 10. The demo shown on stage showed an application written for the iPad being compiled to run on Windows. Not only did it work well, but the application itself was not just a basic app. Apps using UIKit and Core Animation compile fine as Windows 10 applications, and it will be very interesting to see just how far this solution can go in bringing complicated applications over to Windows.

The demonstration during the keynote was a mathematics game which utilized the UIKit framework and Core Animation, and had very complication visual effects and animation. Despite this, the demo worked even more smoothly than the Android application demonstration, and even worked with input using the mouse. Microsoft also revealed that the ability to easily bring applications programmed in Objective C to Windows 10 is not something coming in the distant future, but is a technology that exists now and has already been put to use by game company King in bringing their Candy Crush Saga game to Windows Phone.

One important thing to note is that while Project Islandwood for iOS applications allows developers to create universal Windows apps, Project Astoria is strictly for bringing Android applications to Windows 10 phones.

These two announcements from Microsoft may end up being a game changer for Windows 10 applications on the desktop and more importantly on mobile. Developers still need to be convinced to focus on Windows, but if moving applications over from iOS and Android is as easy as Microsoft has claimed then it shouldn't be very difficult to get developers on board. Only time will tell how this ends up playing out.

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  • GotThumbs - Thursday, April 30, 2015 - link

    IMO. To get into trouble with the EU, all you need is millions of dollars in the bank.

    The EU nations RUN on other peoples dollars.

    MS never prevented anyone from installing and choosing Netscape as their default browser. That is a FACT no one can deny. The problem is it's very easy to get non-producers to say 'Yes' about taking from people/companies that produce, rather than telling them to build a better solution.

    Rather than penalize Google, why hasn't someone on the planet built a better search engine? In my own experience, Bing does not think like I do and try's to give me all sorts of other crap I'm not looking for.

    It's NOT impossible, but the EU chooses to go where they can get easy money.....from US companies.

    A great woman once said:

    "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money"

    M. Thatcher
    Reply
  • steven75 - Thursday, April 30, 2015 - link

    Business 101 fail right here. Zero understanding of antitrust laws. Reply
  • V900 - Thursday, April 30, 2015 - link

    Zero understanding of around a handful of issues from what I can tell. Reply
  • V900 - Thursday, April 30, 2015 - link

    Are you ready for a shocker? It's not just EU that runs on 'other people's dollars'... All governments partake in that particular scam and call it taxes.

    And sometimes they use some of those moneys to disrupt a monopolist so that the free market can work more effectively!
    Reply
  • Romberry - Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - link

    Actually, I think this is an attempt to address the app gap, both real and perceived, and make Windows 10 mobile a viable platform for people and organizations that need those apps. Also, along with the Windows 10 mobile to PC-like experience when interfaced with an external monitor, keyboard and mouse that Balifore was showing off, it just opens up a whole new world of possibilities for mobile.

    Shorter version: If you're thinking this is just aimed at Google and its ecosystem, you're thinking too small. MS is swinging for the fences.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - link

    Agreed. This could become the single most important selling point of Win 10 and Win Phone 10. Letting you do and run pretty much anything, without the hurdles of Linux, has always been a strength of Windows. If this works well enough, it's going be build on this strength and provide users with the best of "all" worlds. The possibilities are amazing: no further vendor lock-in due to a purchased app ecosystem. Reply
  • Mark_gb - Thursday, April 30, 2015 - link

    Maybe it is. But you still need to convince a whole lot more than 3% of phone buyers to buy something they know lags far, far behind the big boys.

    I also cannot imagine that either Apple or Google are going to be too thrilled with Microsoft trying to leech their apps.
    Reply
  • kyuu - Thursday, April 30, 2015 - link

    In what way do Windows Phone lag "far, far" behind the "big boys" in anything but apps?

    And who cares if Apple or Google are upset? There's nothing they can do about it, except maybe try some BS and probably illegal stuff like making developers agree to not compile their apps for Windows in order to get in the Apple/Google stores.
    Reply
  • Zak - Thursday, April 30, 2015 - link

    MS isn't leeching their apps. They're giving the developers the tools to easily port their existing apps to their platform. It's up to the devs to port their code or not. I hope Apple and Google don't take legal action because that would be a move against the devs not against MS. Anything that makes cross-platform development easier is good for everybody regardless of which platform you prefer. I don't like MS phone but I wish they are successful because that will keep Apple and Google on their toes and force to continue to innovate. Real competition is what wee need, not litigation. Reply
  • steven75 - Thursday, April 30, 2015 - link

    Anything but apps... Yeah, so they *only* trail in the thing that 80% of a user's time is spent doing. That's no big deal at all! Reply

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