Switching to Windows Phone: The Google-Free Zone

While I am almost completely happy with my switch to Windows Phone, the lack of apps from Google is rather annoying.

Google ships exactly one app for Windows Phone: their Google Search app.  This used to really get on my nerves since I use Gmail for my email and had switched to using Hangouts instead of iMessage for chat/instant messaging but I think I understand — at least partly — why Google is doing this.  Sure, part of it is competition: they are rivals with Microsoft on several levels.  Then again, Google is also in competition with Apple in the phone market as well but yet they provide numerous apps for the iPhone and iPad.  So what’s the difference? The underlying phone’s SDK.

If you wrote Windows Phone 7 apps you know that these had NOTHING in common with the Windows Mobile 6.x apps from the WinCE days. I don’t recall if Windows Phone 7.5 required major rewrites but I seem to recall that WP7 apps had to at least be re-comiled for 7.5.  Ditto WP8.  And Microsoft is now talking about “Universal Windows Apps” starting with Windows 10 (and whatever number the Windows Phone OS happens to be) which will replace the current Windows Store apps on Windows proper and the apps on Windows Phone.  Given that the state of the API on Windows Phone is less stable than the politics of eastern Syria it’s no wonder a company would avoid Windows Phone for now (even a company with a bazillion programmers such as Google).

So while I initially wanted to hold it against Google for not providing apps for Windows Phone, on second thought I can’t really blame them.  This is a mess Microsoft has made for themselves over and over.  Ironically, Xamarin might be their savior on this front.