Microsoft releases first preview of its Windows Subsystem for Android

Microsoft has published developer documentation and released a first test build of the promised Windows Subsystem for Android for Windows 11.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft continues to inch closer to making Android apps available on Windows 11 via a new Windows Subsystem for Android. Today the company published information on its documentation site for developers interested in bringing their Android apps to Windows 11 via the coming subsystem, and The Walking Cat discovered it. 

Update: Microsoft also has just announced it is delivering a first test build of the Windows Subsystem for Android in conjunction with Amazon and Intel. It is available to Beta Channel testers in the U.S. only for now on eligible devices running Intel, AMD and Qualcomm processors. Oddly, those in the Dev Channel will be able to test this at some point later. (Usually, the Dev Channel tests new Windows features ahead of the Beta Channel.)

The short guide shows developers how to set up their development environment, install the Amazon Appstore and handle input compatibility considerations for Windows devices involving keyboards, mice and window management.

As we've known for a number of months, for now, only apps that are in the Amazon Appstore will work with the coming Windows Subsystem for Android, which means the initial number and type of Android apps that will be able to run on Windows 11 will be limited. The documentation says, "currently, only a small set of apps selected by Microsoft and Amazon are available." 

Update: The first testers will be able to access 50 select Android apps, according to Microsoft's blog post.

The new documentation says that the Windows Subsystem for Android "is currently only available through preview in the Windows Insiders Program." However, as of right now, the Windows Subsystem for Android code isn't in any external Insider test builds, including the Dev Channel. My guess is this will happen any day now, given the publication of the documentation. 

Update: And I was right. It's today.

In early September, Microsoft officials acknowledged that the promised Windows Subsystem for Android wouldn't be ready in time for the Windows 11 launch on October 5, even though Microsoft had been touting the availability of Android apps on Windows 11 as a key new feature of the OS. There's been a Windows Subsystem for the Android placeholder app in the Microsoft Store since early September.

Earlier this year, Microsoft officials said the coming Android subsystem would 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. Amazon's FireOS is based on AOSP.  

Update: Here's more from Microsoft's blog post about the first preview of the Windows Subsystem for Android. The subsystem is designed to make it so the curated list of Android apps and games can run side-by-side using the Snap Layouts feature, pinned to the Start menu or Taskbar and/or integrated into Alt+ Tab and Task view. Notifications from the Android apps notifications will show up in the Action Center and be able to be shared using a clipboard between a Windows app and an Android one.

The Windows Subsystem for Android will be an app available from the Microsoft Store. The Android subsystem app runs in a  Hyper-V virtual machine, just like the Windows Subsystem for Linux.

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