Microsoft unveiled a bunch of Surface hardware during a press event in New York City last night. While matte black Surfaces, headphones with Cortana, and a new Surface Studio were the highlights of the hardware side, Microsoft unveiled an interesting change to its Windows operating system. Windows 10 will soon fully embrace Android to mirror these mobile apps to your PC.
The Android app mirroring will be part of Microsoft’s new Your Phone app for Windows 10. This app debuts this week as part of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, but the app mirroring part won’t likely appear until next year. Microsoft briefly demonstrated how it will work, though; You’ll be able to simply mirror your phone screen straight onto Windows 10 through the Your Phone app, which will have a list of your Android apps. You can tap to access them and have them appear in the remote session of your phone.
We’ve seen a variety of ways of bringing Android apps to Windows in recent years, including Bluestacks and even Dell’s Mobile Connect software. This app mirroring is certainly easier to do with Android, as it’s less restricted than iOS. Still, Microsoft’s welcoming embrace of Android in Windows 10 with this app mirroring is just the latest in a number of steps the company has taken recently to really help align Android as the mobile equivalent of Windows.
Microsoft Launcher is designed to replace the default Google experience on Android phones, and bring Microsoft’s own services and Office connectivity to the home screen. It’s a popular launcher that Microsoft keeps updating, and it’s even getting support for the Windows 10 Timeline feature that lets you resume apps and sites across devices.
All of this just reminds me of Windows Phone. It’s only been three years since Microsoft launched its Lumia 950 Windows 10 Mobile device at a packed holiday hardware event. Windows Phone has vanished in the last couple of years, and Microsoft finally admitted Windows Phone was dead nearly a year ago. The software maker has now embraced the reality that people don’t need Windows on a phone. Instead, it’s embracing Android as the mobile version of Windows.
Microsoft’s best mobile work is debuting on Android right now, and if you’re a Windows user then Google’s operating system has always felt like the natural companion anyway. As Microsoft can’t replicate a lot of Your Phone functionality on iPhones, Android now feels like the only choice if you want a close mobile connection to a Windows PC.
We’re only at the early stages of Microsoft’s new mobile strategy of making iOS and Android better at connecting to Windows, but it’s clear the company won’t hold back on features to ensure they’re available on iPhones too. Bringing Android apps to Windows 10 PCs through a remote window into your phone is a useful and clever way of keeping Windows 10 users focused on using their PCs more.
This is all part of Microsoft’s bigger productivity push, and a renewed focus on “prosumers” that use Windows for both work and home. It’s encouraging that Microsoft is willing to embrace a rival operating system to deliver mobile functionality that we’d never see from Apple and Google unless you bought a MacBook or a Chromebook. Microsoft’s “for the people” fluffy message always feels like marketing, but this new mobile push is a good example of doing something that will actually benefit Windows 10 users, Android owners, and iPhone users.