Microsoft cares about Android almost as much as Google

Microsoft logo
Microsoft logo (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Android Central)

One of the more interesting announcements around Windows 11 is the fact that the operating system can run Android apps. Microsoft has teamed up with Amazon to bring the Amazon Appstore to Windows 11 using Intel Bridge, a run-time post compiler that allows Android apps built for Arm devices to function on the x86 platform.

What's particularly interesting is that you can even sideload Android apps on Windows 11, opening the doors for the best Android apps on the desktop platform. Although Microsoft doesn't sell phones anymore — the Surface Duo is more a technical showcase than a mainstream consumer device like the best Android phones — it cares deeply about Android.

Microsoft pivoted to a cloud-first strategy under Satya Nadella's leadership, ensuring its core services are available on all platforms. It also entered into a "long term commitment" with Samsung to pre-install the Office productivity suite, OneDrive, and LinkedIn on all Galaxy devices, and that partnership has paid off handsomely. Samsung sells over 250 million phones a year, and that means Microsoft automatically gets the same number of installs for its core services.

Microsoft essentially treats Android as a first-party platform.

Microsoft failed to turn Windows Phone into a viable mobile ecosystem, but it succeeded in creating a model that lets you use all of its services on Android and iOS as if they were first-party platforms. You can essentially turn your Android phone into a Microsoft phone as it were, using OneDrive in lieu of Google Drive, Edge instead of Chrome, the excellent SMS Organizer instead of Android Messages, Outlook instead of Gmail, Office suite for productivity needs, and Microsoft Launcher.

According to Neil Shah, partner and vice president of research at Counterpoint Research, Microsoft is now doubling down on creating these experiences that tie your phone and PC together; until now, Apple was the only manufacturer that was able to do so with any modicum of success.

"There is a dearth of tightly connected, seamless experiences between a personal computer and a personal phone. Apple is vertically integrated and growing cloud expertise is getting closer to providing one. However, in the Windows and Android space, both leaders in PC and mobile respectively, it is driven by several OEMs but the experiences are siloed and thus fragmented."

A key pillar in achieving this goal is Microsoft's partnership with Samsung. Back in 2019, Samsung started bundling Microsoft's Your Phone service into Galaxy phones out of the box, paving the way for these interconnected experiences. The service lets you take calls, view notifications and texts, copy and paste text between your phone and PC effortlessly.

Microsoft Your Phone

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

"Samsung is the only vendor which is close enough to replicate what Apple has been doing with MacBook and iPhone working diligently with Microsoft to bring a tighter seamless Galaxy smartphone continuity experience to Windows," said Shah. "This not only aids to seamlessly traverse between the two environments but also reduces a lot of cognitive load."

The continuation of these efforts is the integration of Android apps within Windows 11, notes Shah. "This has prompted Microsoft to see value in deeply integrating Android with Windows and offer native apps, control, notifications, and continuity experiences between the two platforms. With Windows 11, we are seeing the second step taken by Microsoft to welcome Amazon's Android App Store to the platform building upon the Cortana-Alexa partnership announced a year ago."

Shah points to the introduction of Android apps to Windows 11 as another lever for Microsoft to bolster its storefront. "What this also does is bringing tons of apps to Microsoft's store which has been insipid, revamping Microsoft's application store strategy. This is a good way for Microsoft to indirectly court Google's ecosystem via partnerships such as Samsung and Amazon."

As for why Microsoft didn't just partner with Google to bring the Play Store to Android, Shah referred to the ongoing rivalry between the two organizations on several fronts, including browsers, cloud platforms, and operating systems. "The rivalry between Microsoft and Google is even fiercer – from Chrome OS vs. Windows to Azure vs. Google Cloud to Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office 365 to Google Search vs. Bing and so forth. So a direct integration or partnership doesn't seem to be happening anytime soon."

It's clear that Microsoft has a long-term interest in Android. Alongside offering its services and releasing phones powered by Google's mobile OS, Microsoft actively contributes to the development of Android, making hundreds of code commits to the platform. Bringing Android apps to Windows 11 is a natural extension of this strategy; it allows Microsoft another gateway into the mobile ecosystem, and paves the way for thousands of new apps to debut on Windows at the same time.

While Microsoft doesn't seem willing to team up with Google to bring the Play Store to Windows at this moment, it is doing the next best thing.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.

26 Comments
  • I wish they would figure out something with Google and allow some Google Apps in the Store, starting with Youtube.
  • Go to www.youtube.com then pin as app.
  • You wish, but a Microsoft doesn't wish. They want to erode Google's control over Android and make Chromebooks way less attractive than Windows machines. Amazon must be happy as a clam seeing as their App Store is now by nearly double the largest appstore in the world, with billions more machines available than anyone else. Samsung and other third party stores are happy because those Amazon apps should work just fine in their stores as well. Google is probably pretty nervous right about now.
  • You wish. Google will hit back and hit back HARD at Microsoft and Amazon. You sound like you hate Google. Well I don't particularly like Microsoft outside of Xbox and like Amazon even less.
  • How and why would I hate Google and how would that change things even if I did? No. It's just common sense that developers will want to develop for 2 (Or more because these will likely work on AOSP devices as well) OSes at the same time with billions of extra screens. I'm not sure why this is complicated to you, NOR why you're butthurt over it. On another thread you claim rivalry is good for consumers yet here you are pissed off because Google actually has a bit of competition.
  • Don’t mind him, he is just a huge G fanboy.
  • I'm curious what you think Goggle can do to retaliate against this? AOSP is, after all, open source, so it's not like anything illegal is going on.
  • It's not they don't allow Google apps. I don't why Google doesn't want to develop its apps for Windows
  • Makes Chromebooks less useful by comparison is the issue there.
  • They can care all they want as long as they stay out of it. A closer collaboration between Microsoft and Google some cross platform operability, shared apps is okay, nothing more. We have a whole history of Microsoft bumbling and bungling their way through some truly monumental failures. That being said I wouldn't mind to see some more Android integration on the Microsoft Surface (probably the best product they currently have)!
  • This whole article is about the things Microsoft has done for Android and how involved they have been in Android.. And this move is a huge win for the consumer and developers.
  • Microsoft doesn't care about Android as much as Google does, Microsoft only cares about getting back at Google for the deserved spanking Android gave to the abomination that was Windows Phone.
  • Companies don't fight each other that way, holding grudges and what not. Companies care about making profits. Stop treating them like people, and your personal friends and enemies. They are neither. They've been working closely together for years now that's literally what this article ON Android Central is about, dude.
  • wow this was an eye opener statement. just shows how clueless you really are. Windows Phone OS was the best OS ever put on a phone.
    The failure was Ballmer. No apps, no sales. no sales, no apps. But ballmer was too stupid to know how to fix the problem. He would spend a Million dollars on a "death of black berry and apple" parade, but wouldn't pay millions to get Apps people wanted. he was a complete buffoon that should have Never been a CEO.
  • Windows Phone failed not just because of Steve Balmer, because Windows Phone wasn't good enough, the UI was horrible, I don't know what some people saw with those hideous "live tiles" give me the Android interface any day, Google was right not to allow it's apps on that awful platform. I and most people were happy when Microsoft throw in the towel and realised it couldn't compete with the might Google Android (couldn't care less about Apple) and Nadella's appointment was the best thing to happen to Microsoft as he finally put Windows Phone out of it's misery.
  • Windows Phone interface was good. The killer in my part of the world was the lack of apps.
  • Microsoft needs to stop making some of its app for iOS only or add a feature to the iOS app. They should focus on making apps for Android and forget iOS
  • I totally agree, Microsoft should leave that locked down and restrictive iOS and concentrate on Android only.
  • Microsoft is just a pointless company, I think they should just chuck it in. I despise my PC, everything about it, it's just an archaic system of junk. Take Chevy with them...another pointless company.
  • dumbest comment EVER put on these forums... wow
  • Lol right. Microsoft is "pointless". I mean I guess you can avoid them today but between them and IBM they basically invented and definitely popularized modern computing. There'd be no Smartphone of any OS without Microsoft..
  • I use them for my work computer ONLY, and I'm taking steps to utilize other options. Unlike decades past, they're not a necessary entity, plenty of other options. Best comment ever.
  • I never said you comment was dumb. They both are, but I'm not the one who said it.
  • Well said @Inders99 other than Xbox, Microsoft's existence is pointless.
  • "Microsoft doesn't sell phones anymore...' Did you miss the Duo announcement? https://www.androidcentral.com/e?link=https2F%2Fclick.linksynergy.co...
  • Very interesting article, thank you for the information. FYI: In your article are ten incidences of the dreaded word, that. All can be eliminated thus your sentences and paragraphs will flow and read better. Reading all those that words is similar to listening to a speaker continuously saying "um" "ah" ad-nauseam. Hope the above helps you and other writers.