Windows 11 is scheduled to ship on October 5, 2021 and it’ll bring a bunch of changes including a refreshed user interface, new window-snapping behavior and a brand new Start Menu. One feature that won’t be ready to go on day one? Support for running Android applications on Windows PCs.
Microsoft says it plans to begin rolling out a preview of the Windows Subsystem for Android to members of the Windows Insider program in the coming months, and it’s unclear when it’ll be ready for inclusion in the stable branch of Windows. But this week a Windows Subsystem for Android app arrived in the Microsoft Store, suggesting that those preview builds could be coming soon.
At this point installing the app doesn’t actually do anything. It seems to be a placeholder. But the Microsoft Store listing does give us some information about the minimum and recommended system specs:
- At least 8GB of RAM is required, but at least 16GB is recommended.
- x86-64 and ARM64 processors are both supported.
- You’ll need Windows 10 version 22000.0 or higher… or an Xbox One.
This is the first time we’ve seen evidence that the Windows Subsystem for Android would support Xbox game consoles. This could be interesting for a few reasons:
- You may be able to play Android games on Xbox consoles. While these don’t tend to have console-quality graphics, they’re hugely popular on mobile devices, and there may be some folks who’d like to be able to easily play the same titles on their TV as they do on their phone and tablet.
- It could open the door to using third-party game streaming applications like Steam Remote Play Together on an Xbox device (in addition to Xbox cloud gaming, which is available with an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription).
- Android app support on an Xbox could let you use game console as a pseudo-desktop computer thanks to support for Android versions of applications like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, even if they’re a bit stripped down compared with their desktop counterparts.
That said, Microsoft hasn’t officially confirmed that Android app support is coming to Xbox consoles. The Microsoft Store listing says the Windows Subsystem for Android app is “for testing purposes only,” and even if the inclusion of Xbox One as one of the supported platforms is accurate, there’s no guarantee that Microsoft will ever graduate the feature from testing to stable for Xbox devices.
It’s also worth noting that, at least on Windows 11 PCs, Microsoft is planning to partner with Amazon to make the Amazon Appstore the official way to load Android applications on Windows devices. That means users looking for Android applications in the Microsoft Store will have access to less than half a million Android apps… which sounds like a lot until you realize that there are around 3.5 million Android apps in the Google Play Store.
Since the Windows Subsystem for Android does not include the Play Store or other Google services, many popular Android apps won’t be available in the Microsoft Store. But tech-savvy users will be able to sideload Android apps from third-party sources, and I suspect it won’t be long before people find out if it’s as easy to sideload the Play Store on Windows PCs (and Xbox One consoles) as it is on Amazon Fire tablets.