Here’s how Microsoft is offering Android Apps in Windows 11 without Google Play Store: An entirely new framework on top of WSL

Android App Windows 11 Microsoft Amazon App Store Google Play Store
An entirely new framework just to support Android apps. Pic credit: Siddartha Thota/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

One of the biggest abilities of Windows 11 is running Android apps natively inside the operating system. There won’t be any emulation or third-party software layer in between. It seems Microsoft has worked hard to offer the functionality without approaching Google or linking to the Play Store.

Android Apps will work alongside Windows apps in Windows 11. This opens up a lot of possibilities and opportunities for productivity, multimedia consumption, business, content creation, etc. It seems Microsoft has been building an entire framework to support Android apps.

Microsoft building a new framework on top of the Windows Subsystem for Linux to support Android apps:

Will Android apps need emulation? Is Microsoft relying on the existing Linux support? Is Google Play Store for Android involved? Will Android APKs downloaded from third-party app stores or websites work in Windows 11 through ‘Sideloading’?

These are just some of the questions that Microsoft did not answer about the game-changing ability baked into Windows 11 when it introduced the OS. Running Android apps alongside Windows apps is no small feat, and as it turns out, Microsoft has worked hard for the same.

Microsoft has developed a “Windows Subsystem for Android”. Windows 10, and Windows 11 as well, currently have a “Windows Subsystem for Linux” (WSL). And there’s also an update specifically for the GUI part.

WSL uses a subset of the Hyper-V functionality to run Linux apps on a real Linux kernel alongside Windows apps. Hyper-V is critical as it allows a secondary OS to access hardware in such a way that there’s a minimal negative impact on performance.

Android smartphones rely on Linux Kernel, and Microsoft has essentially done the same for Android apps in Windows 11. The company developed an Android framework on top of WSL and is calling it Windows Subsystem for Android.

Technical jargon aside, Android apps will essentially get access to system resources directly off the hardware. This means there shouldn’t be the typical negative performance impact associated with standard emulation.

Microsoft partnered with Amazon for its App Store as it did not want Google Play Store?

As reported earlier, Microsoft is relying on Intel Bridge Technology to translate ARM code in Android apps into something an x86 CPU can run. But reports confirm even ARM CPUs, as well as AMD CPUs, will support Android apps in Windows 11.

Incidentally, both Windows and Android run on x86 as well as ARM architectures. The only difference is that Android prefers ARM, while Windows prefers x86.

Simply put, Microsoft will stack an Android framework on top of Windows 11, and allow Android apps to run natively, alongside Windows apps.

It is important to note that Microsoft is not using the Google Play ecosystem on the Windows platform. It has partnered with Amazon to access the latter’s App Store, found on Fire OS devices.

Microsoft hasn’t demonstrated the entire Android app installation process in Windows 11. Hence it is unclear how the Amazon App Store works in the OS.

It is quite likely that Microsoft Store has merely assimilated Amazon’s app catalog, complete with reviews, screenshots, and a description. The biggest hint is any Android app listing currently available, displays a ‘Get from Amazon App Store’ button, and not the standard ‘Get’ button.

Microsoft Engineer Miguel de Icaza confirmed that Windows 11 will support sideloading of Android apps. These means multiple third-party app stores as well as websites offering Android APK installers files are available and not barred, like in Apple iOS.

It would have probably saved Microsoft a lot of trouble if it had worked closely with Google to get the actual Play Store in Windows 11. This could have offered access to the Google Play Services APIs for important aspects such as Push Notifications, etc.

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