Microsoft to support iOS and Android apps in Windows in new 'open' culture
Developers will be able to easily bring their iOS and Android apps to Windows 10, Microsoft has announced, as it attempts to encourage adoption of its new "universal" operating system.
New software development kits will enable developers to port existing apps into Windows universal apps that work across devices, the company announced at the ongoing Build conference on Wednesday.
"This is a huge breakthrough," Horace Chow, Microsoft general manager for Hong Kong and Macau, told the South China Morning Post in an interview.
"We will invite others to join our ecosystem."
The move comes as Microsoft is making a big push to encourage adoption of its Windows 10 operating system, currently in beta stage.
In the past, the company has struggled in mobile to gain traction against market leader Android and Apple's iOS. Experts have put this down to Microsoft’s late entry into the market, and the lack of apps on Windows devices.
Chow said in recent years the company has adopted a more "open" philosophy, driven by chief executive Satya Nadella.
"Satya has really sped up the culture change," Chow said.
Nadella, who took over from Steve Ballmer in 2014, told analysts at the time that Microsoft must have "courage in the face of reality".
Since then, the India-born executive has worked to make the four-decade old company more responsive and open, releasing its hugely popular Office software for iOS and Android, and offering Windows 10 for free to manufacturers of devices smaller than 9 inches, among other moves.
This approach has paid off, Chow said, particularly in China, where smaller brand original equipment manufacturers have embraced Windows as a way to stand out from their rivals.
"Since we announced we offer the software for free for anything under 9 inches, a lot of new Windows devices have appeared," he said.
"This market used to be 100 per cent dominated by Android."
The influence of Chinese OEMs is not only felt inside China, he said, as consumers around the world buy the low-price devices that would in the past have run Google's software.
Bringing mobile and tablet users inside the Windows ecosystem is vital for Microsoft, which has long dominated the desktop environment, especially at the corporate level.
Windows 10 is designed to work across platforms, with developers creating "universal apps" that are as at home on the desktop as on mobile.
“We’re talking about one platform,” Windows chief Terry Myerson said at Build.
“A single app, a single binary that can run across all of these devices.”
By getting all desktop users onto the latest OS, Microsoft hopes that this will encourage adoption of its mobile and tablet devices, such as the Surface 3, to be released in Hong Kong this month.
To this end, it announced in March that it would be offering the software for free to the "millions" of users running Windows 7 or earlier.
Speaking in Shenzhen at the time, Myerson said the firm would work with Chinese tech companies Lenovo, Tencent and Qihoo 360 to offer free upgrades to their huge base of users.