Microsoft Shelves Android-to-Windows Porting Project

Project Astoria, part of Microsoft's attempt to bulk up the number of apps available to Windows handsets, has stalled. The company is no longer actively engaged with the project, and seems to have shifted focus for reasons unknown. 

Perhaps the biggest news to come from Microsoft's Build developer conference back in April was Redmond's commitment to help developers port their existing Android, iOS, Web, and Win32 apps to Windows 10. Each port has its own bridge. Project Astoria is the name of the Android bridge, while Project Islandwood is for porting iOS apps, Project Westminster is for Web apps, and Project Centennial is for Win32 apps. 

Rather than a true port, Project Astoria took the form of an Android emulator. Microsoft added the emulator to early technical previews of Windows 10 Mobile, which allowed people to sideload APKs to their device. By way of comparison, Islandwood required apps to be recompiled. Microsoft never made Project Astoria easy for developers to use. It wasn't available openly, and Microsoft forced developers to apply to the project, which was seemingly always under development. Those developers Microsoft allowed into the program were encouraged to provide feedback, but those feedback mechanisms are no longer active. 

According to Windows Central, Microsoft has closed one of the main feedback forums entirely, while others have been silent since September. Microsoft has not responded to developer requests for information regarding the future of Project Astoria in months. Moreover, the most recent technical preview of Windows 10 Mobile has stripped out the Android subsystem that was part of previous builds. Windows Central's sources also suggest that Project Astoria's team has been reduced in number. 

"We're committed to offering developers many options to bring their apps to the Windows Platform, including bridges available now for Web and iOS, and soon Win32," Microsoft told ProgrammableWeb when reached for comment. "The Astoria bridge is not ready yet, but other tools offer great options for developers. For example, the iOS bridge enables developers to write a native Windows Universal app which calls UWP APIs directly from Objective-C, and to mix and match UWP and iOS concepts such as XAML and UIKit. Developers can write apps that run on all Windows 10 devices and take advantage of native Windows features easily. We're grateful to the feedback from the development community and look forward to supporting them as they develop apps for Windows 10."

Microsoft did not say it, but it is pretty easy to read between the lines here: Project Astoria appears to have been shelved. Microsoft is clearly more interested in supporting iOS and Web developers. 

Is this a big deal? As with all things, that depends on your perspective. 

Windows 10 Mobile devices aren't in the market yet. The Microsoft Lumia 950 is expected to reach AT&T in the next week, but the 950 XL has little support from U.S. carriers. Moreover, Microsoft has said it won't make Windows 10 Mobile available to the existing base of Windows handsets until December. Like Windows Phone 7, WP8, and WP8.1, the uptake of Win10Mo is likely to be small. 

Developers looking for the widest audience possible are safe sticking with Android and iOS for now. iOS developers who already have other Windows projects in the works may see some benefit to porting their apps to Windows 10, and it appears they have the support from Microsoft. Android developers will have to settle with the one billion or so people using Android handsets for the time being.


Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.