The move is the latest sign that chief executive Satya Nadella is serious about making his Microsoft friendlier and more humble. His vision for Microsoft appears to be more about having a finger in every pie, rather than dominating any single market. So, if developers want to jump from platform to platform? That's just fine with him.
In some ways, the tech giant is focusing on meeting consumers and businesses where they are -- which, at least in the mobile world, is not often on Microsoft devices. (According to a report from analysis firm International Data Corporation, Android and iOS power a combined 96.3 percent of the world's devices. Windows Phone has 2.7 percent.) So rather than continue to tie its software and hardware together -- a strategy that Apple alone has made work sustainably -- Microsoft wants to be the place you turn to when you want to tear down some walls. The company also announced that it would make it easy to port code over from Web and desktop apps into Windows 10.
During a keynote presentation at the company's developers conference in San Francisco, Nadella pointed to the cloud, mobile applications and Microsoft Office as the three pillars of his plan to make Microsoft the go-to place. Onstage in San Francisco, developers and project managers showed off Microsoft programs, including some from its flagship Office suite, running on Macs and on Linux.
Investors didn't seem to know what to make of the company's announcements. Shares slipped slightly -- down roughly 0.5 percent to $48 per share -- during the keynote Wednesday.
Analysts, meanwhile, think that Microsoft should tread lightly.
“The decision to embrace Android and iOS applications is an imperfect solution to an undesirable problem," said Geoff Blaver, vice president of the Americas at CCS Insight. "Nonetheless, it's a necessary move to attract developers otherwise lost to Apple and Google.”
Taking apps from platform to platform "with no modification is not a viable approach for building high-quality apps," said Al Hilwa, a technology analyst for IDC. However, he said, the recognition that developers work on different platforms is clearly "a big piece of the new Microsoft strategy."
The tech giant has just come off a strong quarter in which it far outstripped analyst expectations for revenue and profit, driven largely by the firm's success in the area of cloud computing -- the department Nadella ran before he assumed the top role last year.
But even in that crucial area -- in which Microsoft faces the likes of Google, IBM and Amazon -- Nadella has made it clear that he's happy to have Microsoft coexist with other services, rather than elbowing everyone else out of the way. In a call with analysts last week, Nadella replied to a question about whether he was concerned about Amazon Web Services in part by pointing out that many clients use both AWS and Microsoft's own Azure together. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos is also the owner of The Washington Post.)
The Android news wasn't the only item to break during the conference. Microsoft announced the name of its new Web browser, Microsoft Edge, which will replace Internet Explorer. The company's virtual reality headset, the Hololens, got another outing with a long demo illustrating how users can "pick up" holograms and place them on any surface. The company touted the Hololens' value for businesses -- particularly architects and designers -- and showed off the headset working with a holographically enhanced physical robot.
Microsoft also touted the flexibility of Windows 10, which aims to make it easier for programs to be able to work for the desktop as well as mobile devices. Microsoft has yet to drop a release date for Windows 10 but forecasts that the system will be on 1 billion devices within two to three years.
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