Funny thing about fences. They have two sides, but they also have riders. Those who prefer the precarious perch as opposed to placing their feet squarely on terra firma. Some do it because they have no honest opinion, nor care. Some do it to avoid conflict. Some do it just to see how things look. All end up with a really nasty wedgie. I’m not riding a fence here. But I am hopping over to see how things look on the other side.
I’m talking about Android apps on Windows Phone. Recently some outlets reported that sources inside Microsoft were claiming that Microsoft was investigating the possibility of bringing Android apps to Windows Phone, instantly filling the app gap. This would bring, among other things, coveted Google services to a platform pretty much devoid of them. This is not, in and of itself a bad thing. And I wrote as much several months ago.
But, to be perfectly honest here, I wrote that editorial because at the end of the day it’s what I wanted, not necessarily what was best for the platform. I want C:Geo on my Lumia. I want Plants Vs. Zombies 2. I want Google stuff – Pocketnow editors live and die by it. Take for instance an exchange with a fellow editor earlier today.
So, yeah, I confess I want to run Android apps on my phone. Feel free to jump straight to the comments section. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Which isn’t to say it’s 100% a bad idea. If you’re not a regular listener to the award winning Pocketnow Weekly, well shame on you and your house. You will, after all, have missed Papa Fisher and a very thoughtful guest on this week. Nick Gray of HTCSource and Android and Me laid out a way in which Microsoft might be able to have its Bot and eat it too. Put simply, with the Nokia X about to flex its green-tinted wings, Microsoft has an opportunity to fork the heck out of Android and make its own custom build – Amazon style. As a result they can build their own Android app store and specify to developers what an app has to do and be for it to reside in Microsoft’s app marketplace, thus paving the way for a smooth transition to Windows Phone in which apps behave exactly the way Microsoft wants.
I like this theory, inasmuch as it’s the closest justification to putting Android apps on Windows Phone that I have heard. And, as I said before, I want Android apps. But now comes the other side of the argument – a side on which most of the rest of the world finds itself on. Now, I want to be clear here. I am not back peddling nor reversing my position. I’m merely looking at the conundrum through a different lens and laying out an argument for keeping – ahem – “that Android garbage off of Windows Phone.” I mean everyone, and I mean everyone who has heard this idea has told me I’m nuts, it’s a terrible idea, or both, and often worse. So let’s give it a gander.
The Blackberry beta test
Bringing Android apps to a non-native platform didn’t help Blackberry one iota. Not long ago, Blackberry brought the promise of side-loaded Android apps in the hopes that it would assuage the hundreds of users clamoring for a new Blackberry phone, and an app store. Well, one out of two ain’t bad I guess. But Blackberry’s implementation of Android on Blackberry caused a very disjointed and not altogether pleasant experience. Apps were rarely smooth, and they didn’t run as expected on a Blackberry platform because, well, it wasn’t Android. There was no consistency with the Blackberry experience one wanted on a Blackberry platform.
Lipstick on a pig
But in Windows Phone’s case, this could be an even worse problem. The Modern UI is part of Windows Phone’s image and overall user experience. Getting rid of that is like putting side-opening doors on a Lamborghini. It’d be totes cray cray. It’d be like, oh I don’t know, getting rid of the Start button. You…just don’t do that. Unless you’re Microsoft. But an Android app running on Windows Phone would elicit that same disconnected feeling running them on Blackberry caused. Overall – not good mojo.
Plus Windows Phone is aching for developer support. Sure they’ve caught a few big fish recently, and sure Nokia’s grassroots efforts are bringing in the little fish, but there’s still a lot of work to do. Let’s try a new marketing slogan here: “Windows Phone – don’t bother.” Eh, not feeling it. Not sure it is really going to attract the right audience, or any audience for that matter.
One of the problems Windows Phone faces today is that developers who have the resources to code for multiple platforms are coding for iOS and Android first and second, and Windows Phone third, if at all. Smaller developers with limited resources are picking one and sticking to it. Sometimes that one is Windows Phone, most other times not so much. So to tell those developers, you can go ahead and run your Android apps on Windows Phone is not sending the proper message.
Here today, gone tomorrow
At best, the idea amounts to a short-term gain, but a long term loss. Sure you might attract over some hold outs from the platform because of the shiny new app selections that bring it to the same level as the fruits and bots. But in the long term you’ll be sending the wrong message and enticing only the staunchest coders and purists to develop for Windows Phone as opposed to Androws Phone. As for the users, you’ll be getting more of them and more phone sales, and maybe even some market share. But if users are buying into an Android ecosystem, that’s not exactly enticing them to stay once that two-year contract runs out or once the next Nexus hits the shelves.
We got nothin’
Last but not least, there is the most obvious fault in strategy. By allowing Android apps onto Windows Phone, Microsoft would basically be declaring to a world full of potential customers, “We can’t get our own stuff done”. Putting Android apps onto Windows Phone is a tacit admission that not only is the App Marketplace lacking in some crucial titles, but Microsoft has no plan/ability to add those titles in a timely manner. Basically Microsoft would be admitting that its ecosystem is not up to par, but come buy our phones anyway. Speaking of poor marketing messages.
So there it is. Everyone in the world is right, and I’m wrong. Maybe Microsoft pulls the trigger on it, and maybe they don’t. Either way I’m fine with the platform and I’m sticking with it. I’ll miss Google hangouts, and maps, but I’ll live. I’m sure most everyone else will too. Microsoft can stay the course and put a great product out with no compromise and Windows Phone will be richer for it. Nothing wrong with that.