When Microsoft introduced Windows 11 this week, it also made a fanfare of bringing Android apps to the OS through the Amazon Appstore. It’s an exciting feature both for Windows diehards looking for more ways to tinker and for casual users who might want the added utility of an Android app. But the initial announcement was unclear about whether Android apps would be available outside of the Amazon Appstore.
Noted developer Miguel de Icaza tweeted a direct and enthusiastic “Yes!” when asked if sideloading APK files would be possible on Windows 11. De Icaza is a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft and is currently contributing to the project that makes Android apps possible on Windows machines.
The news is exciting for future Windows 11 users and upgraders. The ability to sideload APKs, the default Android package extension, means you won’t be limited to the apps approved through Amazon’s App Store. You’ll be able to download apps through sites like APK Mirror or even open source app repositories like F-Droid.
We don’t have the full details still, so note the caveats. It remains unclear if you’ll be able to double-click to install an APK or if you’ll have to run it through the command line to get it set up. And unfortunately, the ability to sideload doesn’t mean you’ll have access to Google’s Android apps on Windows 11. You still need Google services and its APIs to install certain Google apps. XDA Developers notes that some non-Google apps like Twitter might not work so well since they rely on certain device-specific permissions.
For its part, Microsoft employs Intel Bridge technology to make the Android-on-Windows capability happen. It’s a runtime post-compiler that makes it so apps designed for Android can run natively on the x86 platform, which Intel and AMD’s processors utilize. Android apps will also run on the Windows Subsystem to Android, similar to how Windows 10 makes it possible to run Linux apps in their own little window.
ZDNet offers more insight on the way the Windows Subsystem works:
The coming Android subsystem will provide a proxy native app between the Android app model and the Windows app model. There will be a virtual machine that provides compatibility for the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), which provides custom variants of Android that don’t require Google Play Services support.
Android apps in Amazon’s Appstore work on Windows because FireOS is already based on AOSP. It’s a nice bit of synergy that will hopefully help bridge the gap for some Android and PC users who want Apple-like seamlessness between devices.
The official preview build of Windows 11 is going out to Windows Insiders starting next week. You can sign up with your Microsoft account to check it out—though you should only do so from a computer that isn’t your primary machine. However, the Android app ability will not be available to try, and it’s not likely to sprout up until the new Microsoft Store goes live later this year.