June 29, 2015 at 5:39 p.m. PST
Microsoft announced a new tool to migrate iOS code to Windows 10 — the Windows Bridge for iOS. The new technology will allow iOS developers to quickly recompile their apps for Windows computers and mobile devices.
Microsoft is Still Relevant
Despite the phenomenal growth of Apple over the past decade, Microsoft is still a relevant corporation. Walk down the aisles of any corporate cube farm, and you’ll see nothing but Windows computers. They might not be running the latest version of Windows, but these devices are the mainstay of corporate computing.
Microsoft is still the dominant player in modern computing. It is important not to confuse the growth of Apple or other tech companies with market hegemony. It is true that the iPhone and Mac are growing in popularity. However, Apple is still far behind when it comes to market share. Even though Windows phones and tablets have failed to dominate mobile computing, the Windows PC is still, by far, the most popular computing device on the planet. It’s completely reasonable to consider a Windows notebook computer, some offering touch screens, to be a mobile device.
Internet tech news is full of bold predictions of the future. Based on dubious data from analytics firms, tech pundits proclaim the dominance of one platform over another. The data are often based on surveys and sales figures. These types of data don’t reveal usage. If you’re a developer trying to figure out which platform to prioritize, usage is important. Microsoft Windows has never lacked killer apps.
Windows consumers are notoriously conservative when it comes to upgrading hardware and software. In fact, there are more Windows XP users than iOS users. That’s just one version of Windows that was released 14 years ago and is now considered obsolete. When you compare all versions of Windows with all other desktop and mobile operating systems, Microsoft has about 80% market share, in terms of usage.
Keep in mind, the data vary widely based on the source. Analytics firms are often inclined to paint a rosy picture for their clients. They don’t lie, but they only show the data that look favorable. Even statistics based on usage can vary widely, depending on the usage being measured.
It seems like something as objective as operating system market share is very difficult to measure accurately. The preponderance of the data show that Microsoft Windows is still tremendously popular. Betanews reported on an IDC estimate showing a 30% growth in Windows 2-in-1 (notebooks with touch screens) devices. Given the inexpensive nature of these devices compared to the iPad, this is not surprising. Microsoft is still very entrenched in corporate and personal computing. I own nothing but Apple products, but I can’t deny this reality, having worked in enterprise computing.
Windows Market Share is Attractive to Developers
It’s a fact that Windows is still a popular operating system. This presents opportunities for developers. Microsoft’s mobile endeavors have not gained much traction over the years. Mobile developers overwhelmingly favor iOS and Android. Microsoft is aware of this reality, which is why they have gone to great lengths to court iOS and Android developers.
With Windows 10, Microsoft introduces a new method of migrating iOS and Android apps to their OS. These recompiled apps are “universal” — they run on both mobile and desktop devices. The new technology, known as the Windows Bridge for iOS and the Windows Bridge for Android, enable developers to recompile objective-C, Java, and C++ code into native Windows 10 executables.
Windows Bridge Takes Some Effort
Moving any app from one operating system to another is never an easy task. As a former Java developer, I know that even migrating a Java app to different platforms or app servers usually requires some revision. Although Microsoft makes it easier, it is not a push-button solution. Developers will need to re-work some code and, in many cases, redesign user interfaces. There are some services that won’t be available to Microsoft apps, however, they provide alternatives in most cases. Microsoft has made this as easy as possible. I expect, given the tremendous market share of Windows, most serious developers will be willing to put forth the effort.
Microsoft makes it as easy as possible. Developers can import Xcode projects directly into Microsoft Visual Studio. Microsoft offers a tool that can analyze the code and recommend alternatives for services. For example, if an app uses iOS Maps, it may recommend Bing Maps.
It’s important to note this isn’t really a port. Instead, developers write apps in objective C which access Microsoft APIs. There is still quite a bit of effort required, but developers can reuse a lot of their existing code.
The extra effort may not be a bad thing. We all know that mobile app stores host a variety of poor quality apps. When mobile computing was first hyped, a lot of web authors basically made a mobile app out of static web content. Most of these apps don’t sell very well. In my opinion, they shouldn’t be apps in the first place. I personally don’t download any app that just offers static content. It’s a waste of space on my device. That’s what web sites are for! Apps should be applications and not just static content. It’s wannabe developers trying to jump on the app bandwagon.
Don’t expect these “crapps” to be ported to Windows 10. This isn’t a bad thing. Only the best and most successful apps will be ported to Windows 10, due to the effort required. It’s like natural selection for apps. This should offer Windows 10 users the best apps from competing operating systems. I expect major software companies and successful individual developers to bring their apps to Windows 10.
I look forward to the Windows Bridge for iOS and Android. After using nothing but Apple products for the past 6 years, I am now considering purchasing an inexpensive Windows 10 2-in-1 notebook computer to replace my iPad 2. I found my iPad experience to be disappointing. The $700 device became obsolete in 3 years, but was never very capable. It’s just a bigger iPhone. A Windows 10 notebook may be a little heavier and bigger, but it is far more capable. It is a real computer that runs real apps, not watered-down mobile apps. You can run full versions of Microsoft Office and Photoshop. You can play real games, like World of Warcraft. A decent Windows 10 2-in-1 notebook costs half the price of an iPad.
As far as stability, Apple has proven, with iOS 8, to be no better than Microsoft. Some consumers will continue to buy Apple products with an almost Pavlovian response, much like a dog will sit even if you are no longer holding a treat. Apple has trained their fanboys well. I think Microsoft is finally moving in the right direction. Their market share has slipped a little, but they are poised for a major comeback. Hopefully, this will motivate Apple to improve quality.
I will still use my Mac and iPhone. I think they are excellent devices. But my adulation for Apple has come to an end. They fooled me with the iPad, but it opened my eyes. iOS 8 and Apple Music also showed me that Apple is capable of releasing deeply flawed products. There’s nothing wrong with owning an iPhone, Mac and Windows PC. If anything, it proves you’re not an irrational fanboy.