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A Microsoft toolset to enable Android apps to run on Windows Phone has been leaked onto the web, along with documentation that shows how Microsoft will monetise these apps.
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In what was called Project Astoria, Microsoft developed a Windows Bridge for Android, which it had originally intended to release this autumn.
Microsoft said the Windows Bridge for Android enables Android developers to build apps using Android code to target Windows 10 phones and small tablets without having to leave the Android integrated development environment.
Android apps do require modification to run on Windows Phone.
Microsoft has provided plug-in replacements for Google Play and Google Maps. Interestingly, developers also need to swap Google Mobile Ads for the Microsoft Advertising (Ads in Apps) service.
If the app uses the Google Cloud Messaging service, according to the leaked Microsoft documentation, developers will need to configure their app server to use the Windows Notification Service instead.
But the tool does much more, according to reports on the web. Because Windows Phone has Android running in a Linux virtual machine, Android apps can be ‘side-loaded’ onto Windows Phones, enabling end users to run certain apps that do not use Google Play Services. This is similar to how BlackBerry BB10.3 devices can run Android apps without modification.
According to a post by Alcarez Research on the Seeking Alpha financial blogging site, Windows Bridge for Android provides an automated way of porting Android apps to Windows 10. "This is a very important tailwind for Microsoft's big shift toward a freemium strategy," Alcarez Research said.
"The mobile apps industry is a $30bn-a-year business. Unfortunately, due to the low global market share of Windows mobile devices, Microsoft's app store business is way behind Google, Apple and Amazon."
IDC’s Q1 2015 marketshare data shows Microsoft’s mobile operating system has failed to make a dent in Android’s dominance of the smartphone market. It has a market share of just 2.3%, compared with 18.3% for Apple iOS and 78% for Android.
Given the fact that Microsoft’s Nokia Lumia 635 costs £79.99, for a 4G device with a 4.5in screen, the ability to side-load Android apps could make it attractive to budget-conscious users.