Might Be Harder Than Expected”. This could be a case of sour grapes for Bluestack Systems, who also went on to say “We’re definitely excited about the prospects of what Microsoft is bringing to the table when Windows 11 finally launches. However, our experience in this field has taught us that branching out into this industry might not be as simple as one might suspect, even for a titan like Microsoft.”
While Microsoft have been vague on some features of Windows 11, the native Android capability looks to be cast in stone, and the feature will certainly undergo rigorous public testing before release. Amazon are not known for product launch vagaries, and the partnership will absolutely be built on Microsoft being capable of deliverables early next year.
Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA)
To understand WSA a little better, we can draw similarities from the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), introduced in 2016. WSL offers users a Linux-compatible kernel interface for 64-bit installations being developed by Microsoft. This can then run a GNU user space on top of it, such as Ubuntu, Kali and Debian. WSL contains no Linux kernel code, and Microsoft said in 2018 that "WSL requires fewer resources (CPU, memory, and storage) than a full virtual machine". This made WSL ideal for open-source developers who could run Linux and Windows applications on the same set of local files.
Image Courtesy of Guerra24
With Windows 11, WSL2 runs on its own kernel, kernel modules, device drivers and users also have the option to place their Linux files within the root file system. Microsoft will also introduce GUI support for WSL2.
With WSA - Windows Subsystem for Android – the same principle applies as with WSL. Also coming to W11 with a GUI, WSA will be expected to out-perform current Android emulators for Windows and will display apps and APKs natively by way of a “container” window:
Sideloading APKs on Windows 11
Android apps will be supported via the Amazon App Store rather than Google Play Store but there will also be the opportunity for APKs to be installed locally – called sideloading. The APKs will then be available like any other application via the Start Menu and taskbar.
Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Miguel de Icaza replied personally on these sideloading questions on Twitter. Icaza responded with a singular “Yes!” to Twitter user, @ajonoguy, who asked if Windows 11 would be able to run APKs downloaded from outside the Amazon Appstore.
It has been speculated that sideloading Android APKs will not be officially supported by Windows 11 (no doubt for security reasons), but with Windows 11’s developer mode available in settings, this might not be a lengthy or difficult procedure. The actual installation mechanism is not known at this time, but it does seem like Microsoft have learned much from their users over the years, and no doubt aim to make W11 as flexible as possible.
Windows 11 Gaming Speculation
Windows Insiders have already been providing feedback and comments about the current beta build for both Android and Windows gaming, with some industry thought leaders like Linus Sebastian and Marques Brownlee taking a familiar crowd-pleasing stance:
“So, maybe the headline should really read,” Marques Brownlee said in a recent video, “Android apps that are in the Amazon App Store will work natively – kinda – on Windows 11, as long as you have a Microsoft and Amazon account.”
Linus Sebastian of Linus Tech Tips said, more soberly than other creators “As with any operating system upgrade, you shouldn’t expect miracles. Obviously, there’s going to be new optimisations, but they’re not going to make your hardware magically better.”
Incidentally, Linus tested Windows 11 performance with a GTX 1060 GPU installed, and showed the following – albeit sobering - performance benchmark:
Image Courtesy: Linus Tech Tips
Regarding Windows 11 making hardware “magically better”, Linus is referring to clickbait YouTube videos potentially surfacing promising Windows 11 will increase FPS for example. Although there are no conclusions being drawn, lots of benchmarks are already making the rounds, mostly with premature hopes of increasing FPS on competitive games like Apex Legends and CS:GO.
This rise in speculation possibly comes from the Windows 11 Game Mode, which limits background app activity during gameplay, and will provide a “boost” in performance. This is in fact a tweak on the Windows 10 version of Game Mode, which will further limit background app activity, and CPU usage.
Exclusive features like DirectStorage are also being watched closely by gamers; a feature which allows users to boot into games faster and also allows the GPU to access game data directly from an SSD. Although only available on M.2 NVMe SSD storage, this still looks good for prospective Windows 11 gamers who can already enjoy this capability on Xbox Series X.
These benefits are all very interesting for Android gamers, who could potentially make use of the new features in their respective gaming sphere.
Windows 11 Release Date
Windows 11 initial release will take place October 5th 2021, and Windows Insiders Community members already have access to the preview version launched in June. Officially a beta build, launch will go ahead as planned in October.
Windows 11 Download
You can upgrade your Windows PC to Windows 11 now by visiting the Microsoft dedicated page. Download here from Microsoft.
Whilst some older PCs may potentially have issues, a compatibility checker is available also on the Microsoft Windows 11 landing page, or by clicking here.