What app problem? Microsoft is developing a service to migrate all your Android apps to a new Windows Phone
According to a patent application filed in November 2010, Microsoft is working on a service that would let you migrate apps and app data between devices and even between different mobile operating systems.
So the famous ‘app problem’ that Windows Phone is confronted with (not enough quality apps, not enough apps in general compared to the ‘big two’ platforms, iOS and Android) may soon become irrelevant. Or close to that.
Microsoft wants to patent an app migration service that would have a few different layers of functionality. First off, it could analyze what apps you have installed on, say an Android device (Microsoft even uses this example in its patent application). Then it would search for identical or similar apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace, present you with suggestions, and let you buy and install every app you want to with one click. In case an official app isn’t available in the WP Marketplace, this would presumably suggest well-performing third-party alternatives.
Furthermore, if one of your Android apps simply doesn’t have a correspondent in the WP world, the service will notify you if something similar ever becomes available in the future.
The Redmond company goes even further, imagining a complete solution in which your app data would be ‘migrated’ to your new Windows Phone from the other platform you were using, alongside the installation of apps. It remains to be seen how that would be accomplished in practice, since neither Android nor iOS, in their unrooted and unjailbroken forms, should allow access to app data by other apps (sandboxes are there for a reason). So this may not turn out to be an app migration service per se, but it would still make a very interesting app suggestion engine for those approaching Windows Phone after they’ve owned smartphones running other operating systems.
Microsoft also envisions this service being used even if you’re just interested in Windows Phone, but haven’t purchased a device yet. In that case, after analyzing the Android (or other OS) apps that you have on your current smartphone and generating the suggestions list, the service would even let you purchase a new Windows Phone on the spot. And if you decide not to, it would still notify you from time to time when new apps that you have on your existing platform are released for WP.
One thing that’s pretty clear is that unless Microsoft decides to throw some actual money at this through app subsidies, you’ll still need to pay for those Windows Phone apps that aren’t free, even if you’ve already paid for an Android or iOS version of the same app. And this will remain one of the big hurdles for WP to face in the future, especially as iOS and Android sales show no signs of slowing down.