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Microsoft brings back Android app support on Windows 11, but don't get too excited

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In March 2024, Microsoft suddenly retired the Windows Subsystem for Android, which was responsible for Android app support in Windows 11. The announcement surprised a lot of Windows 11 customers, especially considering it was one of the differentiating features between Windows 11 and its predecessor. However, as it now turns out, WSA is not really dead. Microsoft and Tencent announced a partnership, which will let customers in China run Android apps from the Microsoft Store on Windows 11.

The announcement post does not explicitly mention the Windows Subsystem for Android or countries other than China. However, there are several clues indicating that the new initiative might continue where WSA left off. For example, the blog post (in Chinese) says the "computer version of Tencent App Store" uses Android OS based on Android 13, which was the final Android update for WSA.

It will also utilize Intel Bridge and Celadon to make it possible to run ARM apps on x86 systems and allow them to access cameras, microphones, GPS, and even NPUs. Microsoft and Tencent want to make Android apps behave like native ones with support for resizable windows, search, shortcuts, installation from the Microsoft Store, etc, which sounds way too familiar to what WSA used to offer.

Here is what Tencent VP Lin Songtao said about the partnership (translated):

PC has a huge user base, and we hope to work with Microsoft Store and Intel to provide mobile developers with technology, traffic and commercialization support in cross-terminal integration, jointly promote the prosperity and development of the PC application ecosystem, and bring users a better cross-terminal experience.

Tencent plans to bring over 1,500 mobile apps and games to the Microsoft Store. Mobile gaming is very popular in China, so it is not hard to guess why Microsoft decided to focus on the market. Shortly after the announcement of WSA's death, reports emerged about the company pulling the plug after failing to make the project and Amazon App Store generate profit. It will be interesting to see how the new Microsoft-Tencent partnership will go.

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