Back at this year’s Build conference, Microsoft said that it will make available tools to port apps from other platforms, including iOS and Android. Now it looks like the Android tool — dubbed Astoria — won’t be available any time soon, if ever.
Windows Central is reporting “from multiple sources” that Project Astoria is now on hold indefinitely, and “may even be shelved completely.” For its part, Microsoft hasn’t said much about Astoria recently, and one source told the site that “the Android app porting is not going as planned.” It also looks like Windows 10 Build 10586 has the Android subsystem removed completely.
Why was Astoria important? It’s no secret that the Windows 10 Mobile app catalog is not only not on par with Android and iOS, but is in fact shrinking as of late as big-name developers have begun pulling out support for the struggling Microsoft phone platform. Project Astoria for Android, along with Westminster for porting Web apps, Centennial for Win32 apps, and Islandwood for iOS apps, were all in efforts to bulk up Windows 10 Mobile’s app support.
There’s lots of speculation as to what the reason for shelving Project Astoria could be, including Windows app developers not being happy about Astoria existing, or that there were performance issues with the Android subsystem loaded in Windows 10.
A Microsoft spokesperson said the following to Windows Central:
“We’re committed to offering developers many options to bring their apps to the Windows Platform, including bridges available now for Web and iOS, and soon Win32. The Astoria bridge is not ready yet, but other tools offer great options for developers.”
App emulation has never been a great solution for inflating a platform’s supported app catalog. With the exception of totally internal emulation, such as PowerPC apps running under OS X via Rosetta, usually emulating apps means poorer-performing versions than they are under their native OS, and emulation also acts as disincentive for developers to develop new, properly designed apps that capture the native platform’s UI conventions and take advantage of its optimized code. BlackBerry ran into this when it included a modicum of Android support within BlackBerry 10, and ended up falling flat on its face.
Back in February, IDC research was already showing that almost the entire world market(96.3 percent) was coalescing around Android and iOS, and that while shipments ofWindows Phones (as they were called at the time) increased slightly, its market share had fallen back down below three percent. Windows Phone owners tend to love their devices, but the lack of a healthy app and third-party accessory ecosystem around the platform, not to mention a severe lack of flagship devices aside from the Lumia 1020 and HTC One M8, made it difficult for the mobile OS to gain traction.
In the end, we’re not sure it’s going to matter. During the Build conference, we asked readers whether they cared if Windows 10 Mobile can run Android or iOS apps, and the answer was mostly “not really.” Simply put, what I said above is the reason: Android apps running on Windows 10 Mobile devices will look like Android apps, and one of the best things about Windows Phone devices have been its unique and interesting UI idiom.