Microsoft has made the surprising decision to release code it has developed to allow iOS software to run under Windows under an open source licence, the latest in a string of such releases from the company.
Announced as a feature of Windows 10, Windows Bridge for iOS - formerly known as Project Islandwood - is designed to address one of the biggest issues with the success of Microsoft's operating systems on tablets and smartphones: the relative lack of software available on the Windows Store compared to rivals such as Apple's iOS and Google's Android. Using Windows Bridge, developers can take existing iOS software's Objective-C code and quickly convert it into a Universal Windows app suitable for Windows 10 and Windows Mobile 10.
That Windows Bridge would be a feature is not news, but in a blog post
by Microsoft's Salmaan Ahmed published this week came a surprising announcement: Windows Bridge will be largely open source. 'This is the beginning of a journey. We are committed to working with the community to evolve the iOS bridge, and help iOS developers enable their code on the Universal Windows Platform,
' claimed Ahmed. 'We welcome all feedback, suggestions, questions, comments. If you’d like to contribute to the project, we invite you to submit your code to the SDK on GitHub.
The release is not a complete one, however: the biggest feature of Windows Bridge is a Visual Studio compiler which takes Objective-C code and turns it into a Universal Windows binary. This compiler does not form part of the open source release, and nor will it: 'we're not open sourcing the compiler,
' Ahmed admitted. Those downloading the source
will instead find code for an Objective-C runtime, API headers and libraries, and integration with Visual Studio IDE.
As well as keeping some of the code proprietary, Microsoft's Windows Bridge release today isn't a finished version: the present release can compile to x86 only, meaning it isn't suitable for creating Windows Phone or Windows Mobile apps that will run on ARM-based devices, and compiler optimisations are not yet supported. It's a start, however, and demonstrates Microsoft's desire to have Windows 10 appeal to a broader range of software developers than its predecessors - and a rare admission from the company that its popularity outside the core desktop and laptop market isn't where it should be.