Microsoft should welcome Android with open arms, but not in the way you might think

Microsoft should welcome Android with open arms -- but not in the way you might think

I have already written about how Microsoft really needs to stick with Windows Phone and not abandon its mobile operating system. Things may have gotten off to a very slow and shaky start, but this is no reason to just give up and walk away. Now a new batch of rumors are circulating that suggest that Microsoft is considering embracing Android, but not by ditching Windows Phone.

A recent article by the Verge suggests that the company is thinking about flirting with Android. Citing "sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans", Tom Warren writes that Microsoft may consider opening up both Windows and Windows Phone to Android apps. No details are given about quite what form this could take, but it opens up some interesting possibilities.

Running Android apps within Windows is not a completely new idea, and there are various emulators and virtualization tools that can be used to achieve this. While these methods make it possible to run mobile apps on the desktop, it is still a case of "never the twain shall meet". Sure, your favorite Android apps and games may be running on your desktop, but there is no interaction between the two; Android is essentially running on top of Windows, but completely sandboxed.

Microsoft could be open to the idea of allowing Android apps to run on Windows Phone

The widespread use of cloud services means that there is some value in using mobile apps in this way, but it would be far more useful if desktop, modern and Android apps were able to interact with each other. The ability to drag and drop information between mobile and desktop apps is something that has many uses. Modern apps in Windows 8.1 already have a mobile friendly feel to them, so the introduction of Android apps would not be completely alien.

It's hard to imagine just what may happen in the future, but if Microsoft is to go down this route, there would have to be some new arrangement with regard to the Windows Store. Whether developers who were happy for their apps to be used on both Android devices and Windows computers would be able to submit their offerings to both the Windows Store and Google Play, or if the Windows Store and Google Play could somehow merge is anyone's guess, but they are interesting possibilities.

Then there is the suggestion that Microsoft could be open to the idea of allowing Android apps to run on Windows Phone. With Nokia already venturing off into the world of Android, Windows Phone and Android skipping hand in hand into the sunset is less of an absurd notion than it may have been a couple of years ago.

This is an area in which Windows Phone could really benefit. As a platform, Windows Phone is still developing, and there is a lot riding on whether Windows Phone 8.1 proved to be a success -- things are looking good from the leaks that are appearing at the moment. Nokia has things well-covered on the hardware front.

Android on Windows or Windows Phone may be pooh-poohed

The range of Lumia devices is nothing short of fantastic. The quality is of a standard many manufacturers can only dream of, and the sturdiness means that handsets are built to last. But Windows Phone is struggling. The number of apps is a major stumbling block for many mobile users. Look to Android and iOS and it's hard not to be impressed by the sheer number of apps available. Sure, there's a lot of rubbish out there, but there are also thousands of seriously brilliant apps.

The same cannot be said of Windows Phone. Things are improving, but numbers are still very low, and there are very few big-name apps that people "expect" to find. If Microsoft opened up Windows Phone to Android apps, all of this could change. The quantity, range and quality of apps would skyrocket overnight, but it is inevitable that there would be a degree of resistance.

Again, there would be the issue of how apps might make their way into the Windows Phone Store. Would there be a merging of stores, a third-party virtualization layer, or separate listings?

Android on Windows or Windows Phone may be pooh-poohed by many, but Microsoft should not rule it out. Mobile users need to be drawn into the platform. Windows Phone 8.1 may be outstanding, but it need the apps to back it up. Rather than waiting for more developers to get on board, this could be the leg up that is needed. It would work in Windows Phone's favor in the end.

So, what do you think? Should Microsoft open Windows and Windows Phone to Android apps?