Preston Gralla

Will a 'Windroid' Windows-Android mashup be Microsoft's new love child?

February 13, 2014 11:33 AM EST

Reports say Microsoft is considering letting Android apps run on both Windows and Windows Phone. Is this yet one more sign that the company is embracing Android as part of its core business?

Tom Warren reports on The Verge that Microsoft "is seriously considering allowing Android apps to run on both Windows and Windows Phone." Apparently it's controversial within the company and it's far from a done deal. If it were to happen, Android apps would appear in the Windows Store and the Windows Phone Store. People could download the apps, and run them on their Windows devices.

Technically, it shouldn't be hard to do. Right now you can run Android apps on Windows using BlueStacks software for Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. And BlueStacks has also released a Microsoft Surface Pro-optimized version of its software.

Microsoft is already entwined in all things Android. It takes in an estimated $2 billion a year from licensing fees with Android device makers. As of last April, Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft Corporate Vice President & Deputy General Counsel, Legal & Corporate Affair wrote in his blog that 80 percent of Android phones sold in the United States and a majority of those sold around the world were covered by patent deals with Microsoft.

Windows-Android dual-boot machines have been hitting the market, notably the Asus Transformer Book Trio. More are on the way. And Intel has already announced a dual OS platform which can run Windows and Android on the same device. It's unlikely that Intel would be working on that unless it had Microsoft's blessing. And Microsoft has been reported to be considering allowing dual-boot Windows Phone-Android devices.

In the biggest shocker, Nokia will likely rollout an Android phone at the upcoming Mobile World Congress tradeshow in Barcelona late this month.

Given all this, allowing Android apps to run on Windows and Windows Phone should be no surprise. In fact, doing that would be a natural extension of the reorganization and new Microsoft focus that Steve Ballmer announced back in July. Here's his succinct summation of it:

"Going forward, our strategy will focus on creating a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most."

Do you see the word "Windows" in there? Even the word "operating system"? You don't. Allowing Android apps to run on Windows devices is a natural extension of what Ballmer had to say, as is selling low-cost Android phones to emerging markets where people can't afford more expensive Windows Phones. And it would certainly be smart business. One of Microsoft's biggest problems in mobile is the app gap -- there are far fewer Windows Phone apps and native Windows 8 apps for running on tablets, than there are Android apps and iOS apps. By allowing Android apps to run on Windows Phone and Windows (in particular Windows tablets), Microsoft could immediately start closing that gap.

So Microsoft would do well combine Windows and Android by allowing Windows devices to run Android apps. It could be a big win for the company, and would also be a sign that Microsoft is willing to consider new ways of doing business.