First Android Apps Preview Comes to … the Beta Channel?

Posted on October 20, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Windows 11 with 48 Comments

Microsoft continues to confound our expectations and, frankly, common sense. Case in point, today’s Windows Insider release, in which testers will finally gain their first access to a preview version of Android apps in Windows 11. One would logically expect this to occur in the Dev channel. But no. It’s only being made available in the Beta channel. For some reason.

“Today, we are announcing the first preview of our Android apps experience into the Windows Insider Program,” Microsoft’s Aidan Marcuss and Giorgio Sardo write in the announcement post. “We are proud to deliver this experience with our partners—Amazon and Intel—to Beta Channel users in the United States on eligible devices running Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm platforms.”

To get started, obviously, you need to have a PC enrolled in the Beta channel, so I hope you didn’t enroll it in the Dev channel, despite the fact that that’s where new features always go first: after all, Microsoft silently removed the ability to switch between these two channels a few months back with no warning. Gotcha!

Then, open the Microsoft Store, where you will find a preview version of the Amazon Appstore for Android and a small selection of Android apps.

“Running Android apps and games on Windows 11 will feel familiar, effortless, and integrated – just as you would expect,” Microsoft adds, though I’ll point out that I expect nothing of the kind. “You can easily run these apps side-by-side with the help of the new Snap Layouts feature, pin them to your Start menu or Taskbar, and interact with them via mouse, touch, or pen input. Android apps are also integrated into Alt + Tab and Task view to help you quickly move back-and-forth between the apps that matter most to you. You can see notifications from Android apps notifications in the Action Center or share your clipboard between a Windows app and an Android app. We have built the experience with accessibility in mind; many Windows accessibility settings apply to Android apps and we are working with Amazon to deliver more improvements.”

Incredible. In so many ways.

Separately, Microsoft at least addresses the Dev/Beta channel issue without really explaining why this happened.

“The Dev Channel is now on builds from a new development cycle that isn’t matched to what is released to the general public and will not get the preview of Android apps on Windows 11 today. We know Windows Insiders in the Dev Channel are excited to try out Android apps on Windows 11 out and we plan to bring the preview to them down the road.”

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Comments (48)

48 responses to “First Android Apps Preview Comes to … the Beta Channel?”

  1. redstar92

    what??? I swear, only MSFT... This insider program needs to be scrapped and started over .... @Paul I really hope that next time you get a chance to speak to Chris C. on Leo's show you actually bring up the lack of clear communication coming from this company.

  2. silversee

    I think what people are missing is that this is being delivered as an "app" through the Microsoft Store, not as an OS feature (similar to how a preview of WSL is now in the Store). Since this it will likely ship much sooner than 22H2, it makes sense for Microsoft to focus testing on the current build branch (Paul's inconvenience notwithstanding).

    • chrisrut

      I agree. The last paragraph explains it. But "Don't confuse me with facts, I've made up my mind."

  3. Matthew Santacroce (InnoTechLLC)

    I just updated my Store app and then searched and found the Amazon Appstore. Downloaded that and launched it...I know Paul mentioned there was only a handful of apps, but who picked this handful!? I was going to install one just to try it out, but there's no way I'm installing any of this junk. I'm sure a lot more apps will be coming, but this is a horrible selection.

  4. spacein_vader

    Is there really consumer demand for this feature? Or is it primarily aimed at devs like WSL.?

    • jgraebner

      They definitely appear to be aiming this at consumers. The initial promoted apps in the store include the Kindle app and several games.

    • Daniel Blois

      The Kindle app on Android is superior to the Kindle app on windows. Plus there are better calendar and email apps on Android than on Windows, so this is exciting for me.

  5. rob_segal

    This is...odd. Ideally, it should go to Dev channel first. That's why it's there. However, it is Android apps and I keep going back to how Android apps haven't helped the quality of the Android tablet experience. A few of these apps will be beneficial (ex. Kindle), but I don't expect it to be a big deal at all.

    • lvthunder

      Good thing we don't live in an ideal world. All that means is they targeted this feature at the version that shipped. Something changed in the version that's in the dev channel that it doesn't work. I'm sure it'll get fixed before too long.

  6. Patrick3D

    The Amazon Android app store pales in comparison to the Google Play Android app store. People stopped making apps for it 5 years ago, or at least that's what it feels like. You're not going to find your favorite games or entertainment apps in there. Everyone with a Fire HD tablet side loads the Google Play store for a reason.

    • ibrahim.mohammed

      But sideloading is what we do with all other operating system, installing apps from Google store does not mean anything. What is important to the user to be able to install and use apps anywhere on any platform.

  7. feek

    Is there anything decent available? Looks like a bunch of shovelware games

    • jgraebner

      The Kindle app and the Washington Post app were the two main ones I found that struck me as pretty useful. Otherwise, it does seem like a lot of lower-tier games and educational software.

      I'm surprised Microsoft didn't at least make sure the Outlook app was available.

  8. rmlounsbury

    I think this is a good time to move my Pro X back to the RTM version of Windows 11 and not futz with the insider builds. If this is how they are going to treat it.

  9. brettscoast

    This stuff beggars belief, what is one channel more worthy than the other, more telling like it isn't from Microsoft. Paul, over to you.

  10. bluesman57

    I went back to the Beta channel not long after installing Win11, so I was able to get this tonight. Only games on this store, except for a flight tracker and The Washington Post. I installed that, it's the Fire tablet version, and it works fine. Had to install "Windows Subsystem for Android" first and reboot.

  11. jgraebner

    I just installed it, but can't get past the log-in screen on the Amazon App Store. It spins for a bit and then briefly pops up an Android DNS error and then goes back to the "You need to log in" page. It's acting like the Subsystem for Android doesn't have Internet access.

  12. blue77star

    Windows 11 + Android Apps -> perfect garbage marriage.

    • MikeCerm

      I think that Windows 11 + Android apps (if probably implemented in a seamless way), could be awesome. It just might finally deliver on the promise that Windows 8 made: one OS that works on desktops, laptops, and touch-only tablet devices. I'm not saying that Windows 11 is awesome -- it's really just 10 with a facelift -- but almost all the changes do make it a better tablet OS than Windows 10. There just aren't any finger-friendly apps on Windows, but Android apps fixes that problem.

  13. taswinfan

    Well. I got lucky. I had just enrolled in dev channel yesterday. I still had the option to go back to my previous build lol. So now I begin the beta enrollment one my release version is restored. Got lucky! Doesn't make sense.

    • Bart

      I just installed the Amazon Appstore and rolled back to the Release Preview channel. All is fine!

  14. usman

    I hope that we can get WSA running without the need for the Amazon App Store to be installed. They do mention that WSA is running AOSP 11 and that Amazon App Store runs on top of it.

    Currently, WSA is only installed when you install the Amazon App Store, and if you uninstall Amazon App Store it removes WSA aswell.

  15. edbellman

    I'm not running any Insider builds right now but I would take this as a good sign, meaning they are likely to release WSA & the Amazon App Store to the public sooner than 22H2, which is part of the reason why it isn't in the Dev channel atm.

  16. jimchamplin

    Instructions on YouTube on how to install Google Play Store in 3... 2... 1...

  17. crunchyfrog

    Myself, I got trapped in the Dev channel while testing on my Surface Pro X. I'm not sure the eventual upgrade path here but right now I'd have to reformat my drive with Windows 10 and then start over.

    I'm so confused right now with Windows 11, I hear it's released but...sort of. I am not clear what is release code and Beta.

    I do know that my Surface installed a big update and failed on reboot (green screen now) and rolled back the update. Not sure what the update was all about.

  18. covarr

    I can't help but wonder how many people specifically enrolled in the Dev Channel in the hopes of getting Android apps as soon as possible. I'm sure they're all really happy right now.

  19. Bart

    Just a guess on how Microsoft is going to spin this; The Amazon Appstore on Windows 11 isn't a feature, it is an app.

    • chrisrut

      From which eventually a cornucopia of Apps will flow. Making it a feature.

      • Bart

        But that is only with the October 2022 feature update ;)

  20. cliffordsf

    Upon reading about it, my immediate thought was, "Oh, this is coming to us before the next major update, as an update to the current release, so it makes perfect sense that it would be in the Beta channel and not the future looking dev channel. I get the disappointment, but the dev channel is geared at new features that may or may not even get released whereas the Beta channel is for things aimed at the current release. This feature is a delayed launch feature, not something earmarked for a future release of Windows 11. I may be wrong here, but that was my thoughts. Maybe if I actually wanted to run Android apps on my pc, I would have read it differently, but I don't think so.

    • huddie

      Interesting thought. So, if that's the case, what was the difference between the Windows 10 Beta Channel and the Windows 10 Dev Channel ? I mean, didn't Win10 Beta Channel get feature updates earlier than RTM channel ?

  21. polloloco51

    Just imagine, if Windows Vista shipped without Dynamic Libraries or even Aero Glass. It would be terribly embarrassing!

    There is really no reason to upgrade to Windows 11! Especially without it's promoted feature, Android Apps.

  22. Maverick010

    My guess is Microsoft was further along in development of the Android subsystem and apps coming to the store than the media thought as they took aim with Android missing on the Oct 5th date. I wouldn't be surprised if it launches out of beta to the RTM channel before Microsoft goes on its December holiday if not in the next few weeks.

  23. hrlngrv

    I believe the phrase you're looking for is because MSFT.

    I figure OEMs pushed MSFT to get Android app support onto PCs sold this holiday season, and that means testing this in the beta channel rather than the dev channel.

    If only MSFT employed someone with talent for strategic organization. Then again, maybe people with such talent can't get past the reality that MSFT is a rolling cluster @#$%.

  24. madthinus

    It is clear that this will be launched on the 22000 branch. So in a way it makes sense that they will test and validate this on that branch. But why not do it with all three rings at once. It is a store deliverable, that you must install manually.

  25. maciek

    I wonder why it's limited just to one country. Amazon Appstore is available broadly - before writing this comment, I've made sure: I've installed Amazon Appstore app on my Phone and logged in with my account, I'm from Poland, works fine - yet on Windows is just for users from the US. Anyone knows why?