Microsoft will allow Android apps on Windows phones
New 'Edge' browser will replace Internet Explorer
Microsoft Corp will allow apps from rival Google Inc's Android system onto its own Windows phones later this year to attract users to its unpopular mobile devices, the company's operating systems chief said on Wednesday.
The move marks a radical shift in strategy for the world's biggest software company, which still dominates the personal computer market but has failed to get any real traction on tablets and phones, partly because of a lack of apps.
Microsoft executive Terry Myerson made the announcement at the company's Build developer conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.
He said Windows phones will run a subsystem which would enable them to run apps written in Android code, although the phones would still use extensions provided by Windows.
For example, an Android restaurant-finding app would automatically use Microsoft's Bing maps for directions rather than Google's maps, as it would on an Android phone. That is a crucial distinction because Google gets revenue from ads on services rather than from the Android system itself.
Myerson also said Microsoft's developer software will be compatible with Objective C, the main programming language used by Apple, meaning that it should be easy for developers to bring their iOS apps to Windows phones.
Microsoft also announced a new name for the web browser that it plans to offer with Windows 10. The company promises its new "Edge" browser is faster and more useful than the Internet Explorer that Microsoft has offered for the last 20 years.
A billion Windows 10 devices
Myerson predicted there will be a billion devices using Windows 10 — from PCs to phones, tablets, gaming consoles and even holographic computers — within the next two to three years.
Al Hilwa, an analyst at tech research firm IDC, said Microsoft's new approach to apps is the right one.
"The only approach to succeed today is to recognize the multiple developer ecosystems out there," he said.
Google declined to comment. Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Microsoft, which bought Nokia's handset business last year, has only three per cent of the global smartphone market. By contrast, Android phones, led by Samsung, control 81 percent of the market and Apple 15 per cent, according to Strategy Analytics.
Microsoft is scheduled to release its new Windows 10 operating system this summer, which for the first time will run across PCs, tablets and phones.
Microsoft shares fell 0.4 per cent to $48.96 US on Nasdaq at mid-afternoon.
With files from the Associated Press