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Microsoft’s ‘bridge’ to bring Android apps to Windows has officially been axed

At Microsoft’s Build conference last year, the company announced four of what it called “bridges” to help developers bring applications to the Windows Store. Project Centennial would help with porting Win32 and .NET apps, while Project Westminster would help developers port Web apps to the store. Project Islandwood and Project Astoria would help developers port iOS and Android apps, respectively.

While Microsoft has continued to tout Project Islandwood over the last year, mention of Project Astoria seemed to be conspicuously absent, aside from an announcement in November that it had been delayed. Now in an update on the Windows Blog, the company has officially announced that the project has been given the axe.

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“We received a lot of feedback that having two Bridge technologies to bring code from mobile operating systems to Windows was unnecessary, and the choice between them could be confusing,” Microsoft’s Kevin Gallow wrote. “We have carefully considered this feedback and decided that we would focus our efforts on the Windows Bridge for iOS and make it the single Bridge option for bringing mobile code to all Windows 10 devices, including Xbox and PCs.”

Microsoft will now focus on improving the iOS Bridge instead, and is urging developers to use this to port their apps. Astoria was essentially an emulator — albeit one that apparently didn’t work very well — while Islandwood helps developers modify their Objective C code and compile it for the Windows Store. This move makes sense for Microsoft, as most major Android apps also likely have an iOS version, but for Android-only developers this isn’t really an option. Of course, that isn’t all there is to the story.

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that it would acquire Xamarin, a company focused on providing cross-platform development tools, for an undisclosed amount. Xamarin’s tools allow developers to port applications written in C# to iOS and Android. So while existing Android apps still can’t be easily ported to Windows, since Xamarin allows large pieces of a project’s code base to be reused, it helps developers target Windows, iOS, and Android at the same time, with only relatively minimal changes required for each platform.

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Fairly well known companies like the now-defunct Rdio and even Microsoft itself have used Xamarin to target multiple platforms, and Microsoft’s acquisition of the company shows that it considers this technology important to its mobile future. The continuation of the Project Islandwood iOS Bridge shows that the company hasn’t totally given up on courting iOS developers, but the real hope for Microsoft likely lies in Windows being included as a target platform from the very start of the development of a new app.

Making that process as easy as possible is very much in the company’s interest, even if that means a few Android-only developers won’t be bringing their apps to the Windows Store anytime soon.