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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  • Morawka - Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - link

    this is all a quietly orchestrated attempt to get google to bring Youtube, Gmail, and Other Google Services over to windows phone.

    Previously, Google refused to make any apps for WP. Microsoft went ahead and made their own version of youtube, but google threw a fit, and would not allow it. Microsoft said "ok if you dont want us to do it, then you do it." Google said "no thanks"

    So if google still refuses with this conversion tool, then i think microsoft has a claim in court to force the issue.
    Reply
  • chizow - Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - link

    Yeah its great to see Microsoft forging their own workaround, and to think Microsoft was sued some time ago for trying to bundle IE in Windows! It is amazing to see what the likes of Apple and Google are able to get away with without even a hint of the anti-trust rubbish claims made against Microsoft for basically the same kind of behavior. Reply
  • BillBear - Wednesday, April 29, 2015 - link

    To get in trouble with anti-trust law, first you need to hold a monopoly. Then you need to use that monopoly in one area to damage competitors in another area.

    For Microsoft, they used their Windows monopoly to damage Netscape in the area of web browsers, which were not free at the time but pay software.

    Notice that Google is getting in trouble in the EU because they have used their search monopoly to disadvantage their competitors in other areas, like online shopping.

    It's worth noting that in the EU you don't need to have nearly as large a share of the market in one area before leveraging that success to your competitors disadvantage elsewhere puts you in the legal crosshairs.
    Reply
  • Luc K - Thursday, April 30, 2015 - link

    Microsoft was clearly no monopoly as time has shown that in just few years focus shifted and certainly not result of this lawsuit. Also it was started by list of competitors in reality (Netscape wasn't really a player anymore).

    Apple holds 100% monopoly on their devices and 100% control them so why are they not sued? It's just bad EU politics that makes no sense and consumers hardly see any money of the outcome (which was supposedly the outcome of Windows that they can buy a version without IE which no one did).
    Reply
  • GotThumbs - Thursday, April 30, 2015 - link

    Well said.

    Apple controls ALL aspects of it's ecosystem. ITunes should be a HUGE violation, yet Apple has skated along unscathed.
    Reply
  • V900 - Thursday, April 30, 2015 - link

    That was ironic, no? A little sarcasm, right?

    Cause frankly, I'm deeply troubled that it's possible to go to school for 9-12 years, graduate and still be dumb enough to say something as glaringly stupid and misinformed as 'Apple should be sued for monopoly, cause they have a 100% monopoly on their devices."
    Reply
  • Socius - Friday, May 01, 2015 - link

    He meant that they have full control over what is or isn't allowed on their devices, including instances where they are forcing the use of their own products like all browsers essentially being re skinned Safari, having to use iTunes, and in general limiting many essential background services to those provided by Apple themselves.

    Also Google packaging all the google services apps with android phones is no different than Microsoft providing Internet explorer with Windows. Except Microsoft got sued for it, and Google is doing even more of it. And yes considering that roughly 95% of the smartphone market is in the hands of Apple and Google, with Google providing their OS for free to increase their monopoly in the advertising market, this is indeed a monopoly, and leveraging one product to make it hard for others to compete in another. This is also why Microsoft was forced to split their operations. To prevent this sort of thing.

    But again...none of that against Apple and Google. Just big bad Microsoft. Lol.
    Reply
  • steven75 - Thursday, April 30, 2015 - link

    Don't be silly. Target holds a 100% monopoly on their stores, yet they are not considered as monopolies in the sense they do not control 100% of the department store market.

    Neither does Apple have a monopoly in the mobile computer market.
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Thursday, April 30, 2015 - link

    "Microsoft was clearly no monopoly as time has shown that in just few years focus shifted and certainly not result of this lawsuit. Also it was started by list of competitors in reality (Netscape wasn't really a player anymore)."

    By 1999 MS controlled the desktop market. There is no sane argument against that fact. Apple in 1997 was almost dead.
    Reply
  • TEAMSWITCHER - Friday, May 01, 2015 - link

    What your forgetting is that Microsoft still lost and was subject to a decade of DOJ oversight. And it was exactly that DOJ oversight that let Apple and Google grow into the companies they are today. Microsoft would have squished them both if the DOJ was breathing down their backs. Reply

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