During this week’s Build developer conference, Microsoft officially confirmed new tools for Android and iOS developers to ease porting their applications to the newly renamed and revived Windows Mobile 10.
The respective toolchains in Project Islandwood for iOS apps and Project Astoria for Android apps will let respective platform developers reuse the majority of their app source code while making needed changes to platform-specific service hooks and features to become fully compatible with Windows Mobile 10 while at the same time adding new tools to integrate Microsoft’s services in ported apps.
Microsoft has developed an Objective C toolchain and middleware layer that provides the operating system APIs that iOS apps require while Astoria will allow Android apps to run in Windows Mobile that will include an Android runtime layer and will run existing Android apps unmodified, regardless if built on Dalvik or native code.
Unlike Islandwood for iOS apps, which will require developers themselves to recompile their software with necessary changes for Windows Mobile 10, Astoria will work with any Android app without requiring the developer to do anything but publish the app, as long as the app uses the API stack that Astoria will provide, much like the runtimes used in BB10.2 and 10.3.1, which are generically compatible with Jelly Bean 4.3 and KitKat 4.4 API classes, respectively.
While Islandwood is the easiest way to draw in iOS developers that frequently ignore Windows Mobile currently, Project Astoria is being met with trepidation, as Nokia took a similar approach with the X Android platform before it was abandoned in the wake of the Nokia purchase and integration by Microsoft during the last days of the Ballmer era.
For Microsoft to employ software runtimes for the two largest smartphone platforms is being seen by some as an admission of failure for native Windows Mobile app development, and with Microsoft’s focus on cross-platform development, the perception may have some merit, given that one of the most popular mobile games in Candy Crush was ported to Windows Phone last year using the aforementioned tools, with no one the wiser.
Update: Microsoft has uploaded a new video to its Channel 9 video library demonstrating Android app porting with Project Astoria