The lines between desktop and mobile devices continues to blur. These days you can run iOS apps on a Mac (but not vice versa). And soon you’ll be able to run Android apps on a Windows PC, no emulator or virtual machine required.
It’s one of many new features coming to Windows 11, which is set to launch later this year.
During a Windows 11 announcement, Microsoft’s Panos Panay notes that users will be able to install Android apps that are integrated into the operating system just like native Windows applications.
That means they’ll show up in the Start Menu, you’ll see icons in the taskbar when they’re running, and you’ll be able to use features like window snapping to display an Android app side-by-side with other Android or Windows applications.
Microsoft worked with Intel Bridge Technology to ensure that Android apps developed for phones with ARM-based processors can run natively on PCs with x86 chips (including those with AMD processors) thanks to a runtime post-compiler.
Thanks to a Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA), which works similarly to the existing Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), you can run Android apps as if they were native Windows applications. There’s basically an Android operating system installed I’m a virtual machine on your Windows PC, but every time you install an Android app, Windows 11 creates a native proxy app that allows it to work like a native app, meaning it can show up in your Start Menu and taskbar and it supports pinning, resizing, and window snapping.
Officially, the way to install Android apps on Windows is through Microsoft’s app store. The company has partnered with Amazon to integrate the Amazon Appstore with the Microsoft Store, which means that you’ll be able to search for, install, and manage Android apps alongside Windows apps. But it also means that you’ll have access to a library of about half a million Android apps which receive updates delivered by Amazon rather than the millions of apps available in the Google Play Store with updates delivered by Google.
That means you also won’t get access to Google apps including Gmail, Google Maps, and the official YouTube apps. But those omissions probably aren’t as significant on a Windows 11 PC as they would be on an Android phone or tablet (or devices like Amazon’s Fire tablets, which run a Google services-free fork of Android).
Amazon also hints that it’s possible that not all Android apps in the Appstore will be available in the Microsoft Store. In a blog post, the company says it will explain how developers later this year how they can publish their Android apps to Windows. That language suggests that app distribution via the Microsoft Store will be opt-in rather than opt-out, and that suggests that you probably won’t be seeing half a million Android apps right away.
It’s unclear whether you’ll be able to sideload Android applications downloaded from other app stores or directories or even install Google Play (the way you can on Amazon tablets). Update: You can sideload Android apps.
But this move could both give Windows users more reason to visit the Microsoft Store and give Android app developers more reason to submit their apps to Amazon’s storefront.
It also means one less reason to install a third-party tool like Genymotion or BlueStacks on Windows PCs.
Windows 11 will be available to the general public later this year, but pre-release builds should start rolling out to members of the Windows Insider Preview program soon.
This is the first step in how the PC will eventually become the biggest mobile gaming platform.
I think the plan is for Microsoft, and other manufacturers, to create ARM (or x86) based smartphones that simply run Windows 11. They will be designed to run your Android phone apps while the phone is undocked, and held in portrait mode. And when docked, or held in landscape mode, they’ll be used as a desktop/tablet Windows 11 PC.
There are a couple of UI quirks they’d have to work out to make it a seamless experience, but I think that is the plan. Microsoft have had a similar idea to this in the past, it was called “Windows Continuum”.
You will basically have a smartphone that gives you access to most of your primary phone apps and games (provided by the Amazon App store) and all of the AAA games and more on a Windows PC. You’d have access to almost everything in one device. To me, that’s the logical conclusion of where they’re trying to go with all of this.
I think these are last breaths of a dying company. For me there is no any reason to get lock back in the billy’s tracking box. ( No billy.. no any penny from me..)
There are tons of great native software for nearly every purposes in the open source world.
Have you have heard of “scrcpy” software that mirrors your android phone on your linux/mac/windooze desktop?
You can use your android phone with your mouse and keyboard. Great productivity and portability tool. There is no need for me to install something and sync etc.
Is this “jumping the shark” for an operating system? I think I will just keep running steam on Win10.
I think this is great news (as long as they don’t drop support for using the standalone installers we’ve been using since the beginning, a.k.a. “sideloading” as Some Guy says). There are apps which I have on my phone and tablet which I do not feel the need to buy again for my laptop but this sometimes means switching devices in the middle of my workflow. Another reason is, as you mentioned, it might increase the apps available on the amazon app store (if an app doesn’t appear on my device via the play store, I prefer to use the amazon store if possible in lieu of sideloading). And lastly, it could encourage developers to also work on tablet layouts since those could work better on Windows and there’s a massive number of windows users compared to Android tablet users (of which, tbh, I am one).
I suppose this is why I can now uninstall “your phone”.
And I suppose that explains why the settings app always launches in this awful 9:16 vertical window even after I resize it and close it. They’re expecting a lot of awful 1:2 vertical windows.
In theory, I should be excited about this. And I’m sure it is a big huge honkin’ deal, now developers don’t have to even consider trying to cross compile into an UWP or anything else, but that’s the problem. Developers are still going to take a phone-first approach to these things, creating the annoying vertical windows filled with low-information-density apps that require a ton of clicking and dragging to do anything, and that’s going to hurt, your hands, physically. This move means they can also drop all desktop and even web app development entirely, fire a bunch of developers, drop all IDEs except Android Studio, and leave desktop users with an objectively inferior product that they probably can’t get rid of for an alternative due to network effects, while saving a ton of money. Which they’ll probably need to do should the economy collapse even if they really don’t want to.
If they don’t allow sideloading, which is currently pretty much what you do to get software that’s worth caring about on Windows, software can disappear whenever Microsoft pleases.
Oh, and of course, since it’ll all be on the Microsoft store, once all win32 development stops, there will be no way to install software without a Microsoft account.
And we’ll all just go along with it, because we won’t have a choice.
They haven’t mentioned dropping support for sideloading from what I can see…
Specifically, I mean sideloading .apk files. If we can’t sideload .apk files in Windows 11, I’m predicting that should all interest in developing something other than Android apps disappear, on a long enough timeline, the only place left to get software for Windows would be the Microsoft Store.
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