One of the most exciting things about Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 10 is that the new operating system features a universal apps store across phones, tablets, and PCs. That means that developers will only have to create one app for use across the entire universe of Windows devices. The experience will change depending upon screen size and other factors, but the apps will be the same.
This, of course, could be a game changer for Microsoft -- specifically for Windows Phone, which has suffered from a lack of apps compared to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and devices running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android OS. The universal apps store should make creating for Windows much more enticing for developers, which should, in turn, give users of the OS a vastly greater selection of apps to pick from.
That alone is good news, and it could be enough to spur not only Windows 10 phone sales, but also sales of tablets, desktops, and laptops running the OS. It may not get Microsoft quite to where Apple and Android are, but it should close the gap. Data from last year showed Google and Apple with more than a million apps while Windows was around 300,000.
The company, however, is not content at merely doing a lot better -- it wants to eliminate any app-related reasons people would have not to use WIndows 10. To do that, Microsoft has announced that it has created easy methods for developers to port their apps from iOS and Android into Windows 10.
How is Microsoft doing this?
Microsoft has released a number of new developer kits that allow programmers working on other platforms -- most notably iOS and Android -- to port their apps directly to Windows. The company gave an overview of what the new toolkits offer in a press release April 29:
"Microsoft welcomed all developers to the Universal Windows Platform by announcing four new software development toolkits that will make it easy to bring their code for the Web, .NET, Win32, iOS and Android to the Windows Store with minimal code modifications. This will enable developers to start with an existing code base such as Android or iOS, integrate with the Universal Windows Platform capabilities, and then distribute their new application through the Windows Store."
The company explained during its Build developers' conference that, "on the Android side, Microsoft is enabling developers to use Java and C++ code on Windows 10, and for iOS developers they'll be able to take advantage of their existing Objective C code," The Verge reported.
That sounds complicated to non-developers, but essentially, Microsoft is building a bridge that lets programmers bring existing apps to WIndows 10 with much less work. "We want to enable developers to leverage their current code and current skills to start building those Windows applications in the Store, and to be able to extend those applications," explained Microsoft's Terry Myerson during an interview with the technology news site.
Myerson described the Android process as being similar to what Amazon does in its store, which is based on Android, but is customized, and does not use the Google Play app store. "If they're using some Google API ... we have created Microsoft replacements for those APIs," he said.
It's not as simple as it sounds, and Microsoft has admitted that it won't work 100% of the time with either iOS apps or Android ones, Ars Technica reported. Still, in many cases, the kits make it relatively easy for developers to bring their popular apps to Windows 10 without having to do gound-up rebuilds. Once the apps are in the Windows store, Microsoft hopes they gain enough traction that the developers want to add Windows 10-optimized functionality using Cortana, Live Tiles, and other tools specific to the OS.
Will it work?
Without getting overly technical, Microsoft has made it a lot easier for developers at a time when Windows apps being universal across all Windows 10 devices (phones, tablets, and PCs) will make working on the platform much more enticing for programmers. But there's still work to be done by the programmers.
Microsoft is bending over backward to make Windows 10 appealing for developers -- something which is very important given that iOS and Android have much larger bases of programmers working in their OS. Offering these types of programming tools can only help.
With the Windows app universe including tablets, PCs and phones once the new OS launches, it seems likely that more, if not most, developers would want their apps available in the Windows app store. These toolkits make doing that a little easier, which should be good for the company, the developers, and for Win10 users.