Microsoft is pulling support for the Windows Subsystem for Android, a Windows 11 feature first released in October of 2021 that allowed Windows PCs to run Android apps alongside native Windows apps. The company says that PCs currently running Android apps will still be able to run them but that the feature will be deprecated and all support will end after March 5, 2025.

Microsoft’s notice also implies that the Amazon Appstore and all Android apps will disappear from the Microsoft Store sometime between now and March 2025, though as of this writing, it is still available to install, albeit with a warning message about the 2025 end-of-support date.

The Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA) was a follow-up of sorts to the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), a Windows 10-era feature that allowed users to run Linux command-line tools and scripts and Linux apps from within Windows without setting up a virtual machine, dual-booting, or connecting to a remote PC running a separate OS. Both subsystems relied on virtualization capabilities built into modern hardware and software to blur the lines between Windows and the alternate operating system.

But where WSL largely met Linux users where they were—allowing the installation and use of multiple distributions, offering compatibility with a wide variety of Linux software, continually improving software compatibility and performance, and making WSL even easier to install and use over time—the Android subsystem was limited from the start by being tied to the Amazon Appstore’s Android app selection, rather than the wider universe of Android apps available via Google Play.

The Google Play Store already suffers from a relative dearth of useful apps for large-screened devices like tablets and laptops. The Amazon Appstore offers a relatively small slice of an already small universe of apps. It was never useful enough to appeal to Windows users, and low user interest more than likely explains Microsoft’s decision to ax the feature.

Android users did figure out how to unofficially sideload the Google Play Store into the Windows Subsystem for Android, the same way that Android users figured out how to unofficially sideload the Google Play Store onto pretty much anything. But that’s a kludgey workaround, and it still doesn’t address the core problem, which is that most of the worthwhile Android tablet apps offer native Windows or web-based versions that are just as good or better.

That doesn’t mean that Microsoft has given up on Android or on creating a world where a Windows PC paired with an Android phone offers many of the advantages that iPhone and Mac owners currently enjoy. For instance, one prominent addition in the most recent batch of Windows 11 features allows Windows users to substitute their Android phone’s camera for their PC’s webcam, something that should result in better video quality pretty much 100 percent of the time. But it does mean that Microsoft has given up on Android apps—or, at least, Amazon’s inferior sub-slice of the Android app ecosystem—as a way to help glue the platforms together.


Source: arstechnica | By: Andrew Cunningham | March 5, 2024 |

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