Build 2015 Microsoft will get Android code working with Windows 10, confirming the rumors are true, sort of.
But what the software giant actually has planned is more nuanced than just borrowing apps from the Google Play store, and it involves courting iOS developers, too.
At the Build developer conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, Microsoft executive VP of operating systems Terry Myerson outlined an ambitious plan to fill out the anemic Windows Store with new apps, and it involves reusing code from as many sources as possible.
Note we said "reusing," not "running." This isn't a strict Android-compatibility play like BlackBerry tried with its latest OS. Microsoft will get developers most of the way by allowing them to repurpose the Java and C++ code from their Android apps, but also wants them to tailor the apps to take advantage of what Windows has to offer.
"To make this possible, Windows phones will include an Android subsystem," Myserson told the crowd at Build, "where an app can be written that takes advantage of the Android code but also the extensions that are right in the Windows platform to really delight Windows users."
We're told this Android subsystem is known internally by the codename "Project Astoria." It's not clear how many of the Android APIs it will support, but it's safe to say that some APKs may run unmodified while others won't. On the flipside, Astoria also provides Java developers with hooks to Windows APIs that aren't present on Google's platform.
To illustrate, Myerson demoed a Windows 10 phone app that was based on Android code but took full advantage of Windows 10's mouse and touch capabilities and was integrated with the Windows 10 navigation model. Even Windows 10's built-in keyboard worked.
Expect more details to emerge over the next couple of days of Build. But the important thing to recognize is that Microsoft doesn't just want to pad its store with a bunch of Android apps. What it really wants is Android developers producing apps that run on the Windows platform and bringing them to market at the same time as their Android counterparts.
Objective-C comes to Windows
The same goes for iOS developers. Myerson said a new tool being announced on Wednesday – we're told it's called "Project Islandwood" – will make it possible to convert Xcode project files into Visual Studio solutions.
There's no code translation involved. All of the original Objective-C files remain intact. Myerson said a future version of Visual Studio will include full support for Apple's pet language, including Microsoft's much-vaunted IntelliSense tech.
"You get great syntax highlighting support that you expect from Visual Studio, including highlighting all of the weirdness of Objective-C," Myerson sniped, to a big round of applause.