Microsoft faces uphill climb convincing iOS and Android developers to port apps to Windows 10

In the three weeks since Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) announced it would let developers who have written apps for Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS port those apps to phones and tablets running Windows 10, Microsoft hasn't exactly had its door beaten down by developers.

The challenge for Microsoft is convincing developers that it will be worth their effort and expense to port their apps into Universal apps for Windows, and there will be a large enough audience to make it worthwhile. According to research firm IDC, in the first quarter of 2015 Android commanded 78 percent of the global smartphone market, iOS had 18.3 percent and Windows had 2.7 percent.

Microsoft has said its goal is to have one billion devices running Windows 10 by its fiscal year 2018, which starts July 1, 2017 and runs through June 30, 2018.

According to the Reuters report, at least for now, most developers are hesitant to take the plunge on a platform that has such a small market share, even though Microsoft is taking steps to make it easy for developers to bring their apps to Windows 10.

"Windows phone will have to gain a significant share of the market before this becomes something that saves us time and/or money," Sean Orelli, a director at app development firm Fuzz Productions, told Reuters. Orelli's firm makes apps related to Citibank, the New York Post, and Conde Nast, among others.

Reuters talked with more than a dozen developers and found just one planning to move an app from Apple or Android to Windows 10. King.com ported its popular Candy Crush Saga game from iOS to Windows 10 "with very few code modifications" and will be installed automatically with upgrades to Windows 10, according to Microsoft. King.com confirmed the move but declined to comment further, Reuters said.

Eight developers said they aren't planning to develop for Windows 10 at all, the report said, and four that already have Windows apps said they would continue to provide those apps, according to the report.

Microsoft will let Android apps run as a subsystem on Windows 10. Android developers will be able to submit versions of their apps, written in Java or C++ code, to the Windows store as APKs so they can run on Windows 10 devices. Android developers should be able to start submitting apps to the Windows 10 Store in the next few months, according to ZDNet.

Meanwhile, iOS developers will be able to use their existing apps coded in Objective-C and work with a Microsoft compiler tool so that iOS apps can work on Windows 10.   

However, Microsoft hasn't actually released those tools yet, so developers have not really had a chance to see what it would take to port their apps over. A Microsoft spokesman told Reuters that "it is still early" and many developers will want to explore the tools over the coming months.
There are more than 340,000 Windows Phone apps, compared to more than 1 million apps for Android and iOS. As Reuters notes, only six of the top 10 free apps on the iPhone are available for Windows smartphones, and of those, two are made by Microsoft itself. That's why Microsoft is taking the steps it has announced to address the app gap. However, as more consumers move away from Windows and PCs in general, that could hamper Microsoft's efforts to attract developers.

"It's going to be hard for developers to prioritize building for Microsoft," in that environment,  URX CEO John Milinovich told Reuters.

For more:
- see this Reuters article

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