Your Windows 11 PC Will Soon Run Android Apps

How will that work, exactly?

Key Takeaways

  • Windows 11 will run Android phone apps.
  • These apps will come from Amazon’s app store.
  • Behind the scenes, this is a lot more complex than running iPhone apps on the Mac.
Amazon Appstore offering Android apps for Windows 11 PCs

Microsoft

Windows 11 will run Android phone apps, just like the latest Macs can run iPhone apps, but why will Microsoft allow this?

Microsoft has historically kept a tight control of its dual moneymakers, Windows and Office. But in recent years, these products have become parts of its new goal—to be the go-to vendor for all business software. With this in mind, it makes sense that Windows should do as much as possible, including letting you run all your Android apps on your PC. But things are already a little confusing.

"Not all Android apps in the Google Play Store [will work], only those in the Amazon Appstore will be compatible for use in Windows 11," Michael Knight, co-founder of Incorporation Insight, told Lifewire via email. "[Also], Windows will attempt to natively sideload Android applications." Got that?

Will It Work?

iPhone apps can run on the latest M1 Macs because they all use the same chips and share a common set of tools for building apps. In a sense, the newest Macs are just big iPhones.

Android on Windows is quite different, and conceptually way more complex. Android apps can run on ARM processors (like Apple’s M1, or the Qualcomm Snapdragon chips powering most Android phones), or on the Intel x86 chips found in most PCs.

To serve apps, Windows 11 will include the Amazon Appstore. If the app you want to install is available in native x86 (PC) format, then it will just give you that. If not, then Windows will activate a special in-between layer that translates the phone app to run on the PC.

Currently, we don’t know the details of this translation layer, because Microsoft’s presentation didn’t get that deep. This Microsoft/Intel press release has an overview, and this excellent technical article from Ars Technica covers what is known so far.

"First-party apps will likely work without issue, as Windows 11 has been built to support them. Some apps may take some configuring to get to work and some may not work at all," Christen Costa, CEO of Gadget Review, told Lifewire via email.

"Not all Android apps in the Google Play Store [will work], only those in the Amazon Appstore will be compatible for use in Windows 11."

It will also be possible to sideload apps from any source. You won’t be stuck with Amazon’s Appstore, which might be a good thing because the experience looks far from slick.

"To download apps, you'll need to sign in with your Amazon account. The Microsoft Store serves primarily as a unified app search engine," Edward Mellett, founder of advice site Wikijob, told Lifewire via email. "This implies that you'll have two App Stores open at all times on Windows, with two places to check for updates. It doesn't appear to be streamlined."

Why, Microsoft? Why?

Including a third-party app store in Windows shows how much Microsoft has changed under CEO Satya Nadella. It’s gone from being all about pushing Office into whatever space would take it to making Microsoft a kind of one-stop shop for business. And Microsoft doesn’t have a mobile operating system of its own.

Even though Apple is focussed on individual users, it still has a formidable business presence. This could be why Intel and Microsoft have teamed up to put Android right there on the desktop.

"It's a sensible step to increase their distinction from Mac, and create more accessibility for the user as it opens possibilities of using the same apps without lifting the phone," says Knight. "This also strengthens the streamlined use of desktops and laptops for both business and leisure purposes."

What About Windows on Arm?

There’s another piece that doesn’t really fit into this puzzle. Microsoft also makes a version of Windows that runs on ARM processors. You’d think this might be the way to let Android apps run on PCs, but Microsoft seems almost reluctant to push it beyond its current form. Right now, Windows for ARM runs better on M1 Macs than it does on Microsoft’s own hardware.

Then again, Microsoft plays the long game. Android on x86 Windows is right now. Android apps on ARM Windows PCs is probably the future. Whatever the plan, the reality now is your next PC update will make it a whole lot more useful.

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