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Windows 11 doesn't go far enough with Android integration in one big way

Windows 11 Android Laptop
Windows 11 Android Laptop (Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Windows 11 will be coming soon(ish) to millions of desktops and laptops, and it has a really cool feature that we're kind of excited to see: it can run Android apps.

Awesome, right? You can install all the best Android apps that you use on the best Android phones right on your laptop, and it's some sort of concoction that has the best of both worlds in it. I'm sorry to burst your bubble. Really, I am. But that's not the experience you'll have because Android apps on Windows 11 are missing one very important ingredient: Google (and the Google Play Store).

Microsoft is making it super easy to use Amazon's Appstore, and you'll be able to sideload a lot of other Android apps, but neither option will give you what you really wanted, which is to have apps that work just like they do on your phone. Instead, you have an experience that's more like the one available on a Huawei phone, where all of Google's services and extra sauce are unable to be installed, and Huawei has had to try and make up for that fact.

And while you'll read differing opinions on the quality of Amazon's store, this is different. This has nothing to do with your favorite app not being available from Amazon, or that app being an older version that's missing features, or how much better something like the Amazon Prime Video app works on an Amazon device through the Amazon Appstore. This is about missing features that Google provides through its part of the Google Mobile Services agreement. Things like built-in messaging and notifications, or built-in access to Google Drive for backups. Using Android apps is a very different experience without these things.

Microsoft Surface Duo

Source: Daniel Bader / Android CentralYou know this is the coolest phone ever. (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

That bugs me. A lot. Not because I want to hate on Microsoft or the Amazon Appstore, but because it probably didn't have to be this way. Had Microsoft partnered with Google directly instead of Amazon, you would have the same experience as someone with a Chromebook: not 100% amazing, but not always awful and slowly getting better. You would have the same apps from your phone, and they could do the same things, however.

Yes, I know this sounds a little crazy.

I know this idea sounds crazy, and there are a lot of reasons why it didn't happen. I'm betting the right reason is that Microsoft isn't ready to give Google that amount of leverage, at least right now. Oh yeah — Microsoft did say that there could be support for other app markets like Steam, Samsung's Galaxy Store, and Google Play. One day all these words I'm writing could be wasted internet space, and I would totally be OK with that. But for now, it's you have to rely on Amazon or find random apps and download them from the internet.

I'm 100% sure of one thing — Google would have been OK with working with Microsoft to integrate Google Play. I mean, that's a win-win situation for Google. Google's apps and services — including the Play Store — on Android and Windows would mean that almost every person in the known universe would use Google. So many eyeballs. So many ad impressions. So many monies. Lots of monies.

I can't blame Microsoft for not wanting to give business away.

Conversely, Microsoft wants those eyeballs and monies to themselves because they too are a for-profit business and not just Google's wingman. A lot of people poke fun at Microsoft and seem to love to hate on its products, but the company has been around a long time and knows how to make money. I can't second-guess their motives. But I can lament that something better is missing, and it probably didn't have to be missing.

Bluestacks

Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

And it would work better than you think because you can already run almost any app from the Google Play Store on your Windows computer right now through a program called BlueStacks. BlueStacks is kind of crazy. It pretends it's a phone (you can choose which model in the program's settings) with Google's Mobile Services, including Google Play Services, Google Play Games, and the Google Play Store. To use it, you just open the Play Store app and install apps just like you would on a phone.

Of course, it's a containerized and emulated service that's only pretending to be a phone, but it works just like it does on your phone. And BlueStacks isn't some secret app that only the cool kids know about — millions of people use it every day along with other popular Android emulators like MEMU that can do the very same thing. Google has to be aware of exactly what is going on here. That means Google is either just ignoring it because it doesn't really care about the Google Play Store or that programs like BlueStacks have some sort of approval from Google to do it. I'm betting the latter. Either way, the answers you'll find on Quora that say "because it's open-source" are dead wrong because nothing about Google Play is open source. NOTHING.

Bluestacks Settings

Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

So it's possible to have a decent experience through an often janky front-end like BlueStacks, and it's possible to run a full Android instance inside a container ala Chrome OS. Instead, Microsoft decided to go with Amazon, at least for now.

I really wish I could know why it didn't happen.

I really just want to know why. Believe it or not, Google and Microsoft are very good partners when it comes to the engineering and operating system departments. Microsoft's close work with Google in developing Android for the Surface Duo is why Android 11 and Android 12 have even more foldable device features. Microsoft is a big contributor to the Chromium project, which is what makes Google Chrome possible. Microsoft is also one of the first "big" companies that recognized that Android users needed the absolute first-class experience when it comes to apps. Microsoft Office apps on Android are damn good. Microsoft knows how important the Android ecosystem is to its future and its bottom line.

I'm not privy to Microsoft's future plans, nor am I in the loop when it comes to executive meetings between the two companies. I am sure that Windows 11 would be a lot better when it comes to Android app support had Microsoft and Google started up a love affair.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

47 Comments
  • I'm way less sure Microsoft was the holdout here. Google has a long history of holding back their best experiences from Microsoft platforms (no Google apps for Windows Phone). I'd guess Google sees Play as an advantage for Chrome OS and they want to push for more market share in laptops/desktops. What I'm curious about is how this non-GMS Android that Microsoft built in to Windows will affect Duo (if at all).
  • I dont want Google OR Amazon having any of their services on my computer.
  • I want Google on my computer but not Amazon.
  • So use bliestacks or Samsung Dex 9f whatever you normally use now. Let the rest of us enjoy something we're excited for. Man if you had to eat the words you typed when they turned out be wrong due to some inability to look a year into the future and see the obvious.. well anyway.
  • I'm patiently waiting for the MicroG tutorial that will fix this. Also... Android apps coming from the Amazon Appstore, running on an Android Runtime that's not really an Android device. Where have I seen this fail story before?
  • I don't really need to use Android apps on my Windows PC as I create PWA apps using Edge... If I really need to use an Android app I can run them via my Note 20 Ultra using the Your Phone application...
  • Aww... You are so cute and naive to think it's Microsoft holding out and not Google. I suggest you do some history research between these two companies and bringing over apps/services to Microsoft ecosystems.
  • It’s a Jerry article. He likes to place blame everywhere else but on Google.
  • He really seems to be trying his hardest here to spin this in a completely different direction than I think it's going in. I don't think anyone involved wanted Google involved. Android is bigger than Windows and way more controlled by Google than Microsoft could dream for it's own OS... This is everyone else's way of breaking that stranglehold. Google's best bet would be to join in here as quick as they possibly can, or Amazon's App Store is going to get a lot more popular in the next few years.
  • That was my thought as well. Microsoft partnering with Amazon, just perked up the ears of every developer out there who isn't in Amazon's store. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Microsoft's store also being developer fee free will definitely help build out the Amazon catalog as well. Is it possible this is Microsoft saying, "you didn't want to bring Google apps to windows phone, so we don't want your store." I suspect this will effect Chromebook sales because if you could have a chromebook running lightweight phone apps, or a windows machine that can run major programs and also run apps like a chromebook, why would you buy a chromebook? This whole thing feels like Microsoft taunting both Google and Apple's app stores.
  • This won't affect existing Android users who are in the Google ecosystem like me but maybe the fear weathered and fickle users, Google isn't stupid and will come up with a better solution than both Microsoft and Amazon. It says more about both the failings of Microsoft and Amazon that they have to gang up on Google, I can't wait until the inevitable anti trust investigation against Microsoft and Amazon for their own monopoistic dominance.
  • Like me? I can't wait. I can still use the apps I paid for through the Play store buy you can bet your ass in future I'm buying from Amazon so it can work on all my devices instead of just my Android devices. Stop typing and start thinking, man. You're embarrassing yourself with this sales pitch! This in no way is bad for consumers!
  • You mean like Google and Apple keep ganging up on Microsoft for desktop? Oh wait, they're not even trying there.
  • Very few apps I use require Google, so that's not a big deal for me. I'm hoping Microsoft's current plan is a path to something better; it sure feels like it is.
  • Most of my apps I use are Google and it stays a lot about the failings of Microsoft and Amazon that they have to gang up against Google due to their failure to compete with Google superiority on their own.
  • Lol did Pookie strike a nerve there? We get it you like Google and probably make money from them indirectly somehow..
  • I have been wanting a new device totally free of Google. I can still hope. My phones have all of Google that can be, deleted or turned off and those still there are unused.
  • May then you need to move to the Apple walled garden then and you won't need Google or so the iFans will tell you.
  • You can never totally escape Google and why would you? I rely on Google for almost everything and find Google the most useful and most people love Google including me and whether you like it or not, most people will use Google over everything else, why? Because people like convenience and Google is convenient just like WhatsApp and Facebook, people will stick with what they know.
  • Um.. woah. When you replied to me below I would not have responded had I noticed you get paid to write this ****. Either that or you must save that company an entire floor's worth of T.P. yeesh.
  • "I'm 100% sure of one thing — Google would have been OK with working with Microsoft to integrate Google Play." 100% sure? Come on.
  • Google wouldn't put YouTube on Windows Phone, and forced MS to remove their version. That animosity hasn't changed. The only thing MS and Google agree on is not liking Apple.
  • Most of us who use Android don't like Apple and only use Apple to get more views, more so if you're a tech influencer or YouTuber.
  • I'm almost 100% sure this is about eroding Google's control over Android, and as such Google wasn't even invited to the party at first, and I think if they were invited they'd have said no. Microsoft is never going to agree to the requirements as they currently are to install the play store and Google services. There is another huge thing you seem to have missed: the Amazon App store will now now available on nearly twice as many devices as Google Play. More really if Android share includes Huawei devices etc.
    The reason other app stores on Android don't get the same support from developers is because it's basically duplicating your work for no reason. They may rush to change their apps so as to not require Google's services so they are available on a whole new OS though. I highly suspect Amazon's app store is about to get a lot more interest from developers - maybe more than the play store itself. Those apps will be easily available to put in Samsung's store, Huawei's store, etc. This is a win for everyone BUT Google.
  • Google will still come out on top in all this because all Google has to do is offer better terms for developers and the Microsoft and Amazon dream of dethroning Google is dead. (Hopefully).
  • Why hopefully? You have a problem with developers making more money? With more choice in app stores? How in any way would this hurt you, a supposedly unbiased consumer. That is a serious question. You are acting like this will negatively affect you? How?
  • What's missing? Google Play Store is missing from this Windows 11 Android app integration, with no Google Play Store integration, there's no point in having Android apps on Windows at all, as Amazon is nothing but a limited Android fork.
  • Google Play Store is about to have way less market share than Amazon App Store. Developers WILL shift. It's not that Google Play Services are required for most apps to work. Now developers will be writing apps for the 2 largest OSes through one app store. That's worth avoiding Google's services completely.
  • Not really, as the Amazon app store has way less apps than the Google Play Store and without Google apps and services and the Play Store itself Android apps on Windows 11 is dead on arrival without.
  • If you don't think developers are going to want to develop apps for BILLIONS more machines on 2 OSes at once by going through Amazon's App Store, the next few years are going to be a real shock to you.
  • Once again you are only thinking in the present as if the future won't ever change. Come on Marty, you've got to think fourth dimensionally! Amazon app store CURRENTLY has way less apps than google play store. But this isn't Windows phone vs Android again. This isn't tiny mouse marketshare windows phone trying to woo developers away from giant Goliath android. This is Goliath Microsoft offering a better, cheaper way for developers to find more customers. A developer would be an idiot to ignore the now far greater reach that Amazon's store will have over the play store.
  • Not to mention the play store is the only android app store moving away from apks. Google store will essentially be in a silo to develop for and will be taking more of a cut. Changes are going to have to come. Let's be real, they'll def keep developers but developers will certainly Microsoft/amazonify apps for sure
  • Yawn, wake me up when The Amazon app store reaches 3 billion people, this will fail because of no Google Play Store and then there's the Apple factor too and I'm not a fan of Apple either and agree 100% with Jerry on this one. If this was a Google and Microsoft partnership then this would have succeeded but it's not and so it will fail unless I'm missing something.
  • If only you'd sleep for the next year..
  • Correction to my above: this is a blow to Apple too, not for making Android apps better than iOS apps or anything, but because every company involved can point at it and say 'we have no app store monopoly' except for Apple.
  • This will fall flat on it's face, you'll see when Microsoft eventually realizes it can't compete with the Play Store and over 3 million apps compared to 500,000 apps on the Amazon app store, developers won't be interested because most people won't know about Android apps being on Windows 11 or even care as they have their Android phone or tablet.
  • This has been answered directly to you by several people. In the near future, that number is going to quickly rise. It's so obvious, ******* Mitochondrial Eve has figured it out by now. If your next comment is going to yet again say anything along the lines of "But Amazon only has 500K apps..." you don't know how people work. Just repeating yourself over and over is not going to convince anyone of anything.. O_o.
  • He can't think fourth dimensionally. That's why he's been a OnePlus fan, then a Samsung fan, then an iphone fan then back to Samsung, and currently I think a Pixel fan all in the last 12-15 months. His opinion today is all that matters, until he changes it tomorrow.
  • Woah all those phones and he has this rabid "I get paid to support this" style of writing.
  • This has nothing to do with my opinion on phones or whatever else you assume about me, this is about Android apps on Windows 11 being pointless without the Play Store and developers wouldn't have more work to do like they will do with the limited Amazon app store.
  • I was talking about exactly this type of nonsense. Defending Google because we are excited about something unrelated to Google. Nobody agrees with you. I am just crazy surprised by this odd defense since you seem to switch loyalties at the drop of a hat. I guess I'll book ark this comment as a start date for when you are a huge Windows 11 fan. Lol.
  • What you call nonsense, I call just espressing my opinion and I'm not impressed with Windows 11 and Microsoft missed an opportunity by not partnering with Google.
  • You can be as unimpressed as you want but your 'opinion' doesn't mesh with reality. Your opinion isn't going to make developers want to do more work for less money. And I don't even know how it affects you at all except to give you more choice so why are you whining about it for days? I call it nonsense because in my opinion and everyone else's and the study of history it is nonsense. Nobody bright is going to develop for half the machines and an app store that takes a bigger cut. That you keep saying they will speaks to your brightness..
  • I apologize I apologize the brightness comment that wasn't very nice.
  • Everyone said the same thing about Windows Phone and look how that turned out. When developers realise that Amazon is as closed as Apple's walled garden and as restrictive they'll come crawling back. Yeah choice is great for consumers but Microsoft has bet on the wrong horse with Amazon.
  • Oh Hon.. You're comparing Windows Phone with Windows itself.
    One had no users and no sales - the other has billions of users and already exists in almost every house. I'd suggest thinking on that but clearly you won't.
  • I'd use Sammy's dex if needed. Until chromebook gets better with its limitations windows with a little android will be fine