Microsoft brings Android app support to Windows 11
Today, Microsoft officially unveiled the new version of Windows: Windows 11. At the event, Microsoft detailed a number of upcoming visual and productivity changes for the desktop operating system. Towards the end of the event, Microsoft had a surprise in-store announcement: the company is bringing Android apps to Windows 11, accessible through the Microsoft Store through a partnership with the Amazon Appstore.
Few technical details were shared in the initial keynote regarding Android app integration functionality, but in a follow-up developer keynote, Microsoft said it has developed a “Windows Subsystem for Android” (WSA) that is already similar to “Windows Subsystem for Linux”. present in Windows. Apps appear in a top-level window where they can be pinned to the Start menu, resized, captured, and generally managed like any native Windows app. Microsoft says that behind the scenes, Windows 11 creates a native proxy app that manages the bridge between the Android app model and the Windows app model. To make the code work, Microsoft used the progress made in the development of WSL – and the integration of the Linux kernel with Windows – to create the WSA. Android apps run in a virtual machine that offers compatibility with the AOSP framework, and devices such as keyboards, mice, touchscreens, pens, and Bluetooth headsets for audio are compatible.
Since most Android apps are designed for ARM processors, Microsoft worked with Intel to use Intel’s Intel Bridge technology to run ARM binaries on Intel and AMD PCs. In another blog post, Intel describes Intel Bridge as a “runtime post-compiler that allows applications to run natively on x86 devices.” It has not yet been explicitly confirmed which Intel processors will support Android apps, although Intel’s blog post mentions that the company “expects to deliver the widest range of computing experiences for Windows 11 this year. year and beyond, with 10th gen, 11th gen and future generations of Intel Core processor-based platforms for consumers, businesses, education, enthusiasts and more. As for Windows PCs based on ARM , they will also be supported, although Microsoft is not yet ready to share details, according to The edge.
Beyond hardware compatibility, our other concern with this news is that the number of apps available through Amazon’s Appstore is paltry compared to the number available through Google’s Play Store. Additionally, Windows 11 is unlikely to ship with Google mobile services on board, so we don’t know if any apps will perform badly on the OS due to the lack of Google Play services. Since Amazon Fire devices ship without GMS and therefore many apps submitted to the Amazon Appstore are designed with this in mind, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
According to WSJ‘s Joanna Stern, you will first need to download and sign in to the Amazon Appstore app before you can download Android apps from the Microsoft Store. It’s a bit awkward, but hopefully Microsoft will improve the process later.
Android apps work like normal apps thanks to Amazon. Although this download process seems a bit wonky, at least at first: pic.twitter.com/qELV0fhRMc
– Joanna Stern (@JoannaStern) June 24, 2021
The arrival of Android apps on Windows 11 is clearly intended to take into account Apple’s recent integration of iOS and iPadOS apps into macOS. Apple’s integration was made possible by the move of the new Macs to an ARM processor – Apple’s M1 silicon – while the former is done through a partnership with Intel. Google’s Chrome OS also supports running Android apps, and there are ways to run Android apps on GNU / Linux distributions as well.
We’re excited about this announcement and will be looking into Android app integration whenever Microsoft releases early versions of Windows 11 next week. We’re especially interested in learning the process of sideloading Android apps on Windows 11 without the Amazon Appstore, which is apparently possible.