Microsoft’s bringing Android apps to Windows 11
Android apps “There is a pull in the market from consumers and that pull in the market is creating the space, which is, everybody wants to use their apps on a PC or a Mac,” Rosen Sharma, the chief executive of BlueStacks, underlines why he believes Microsoft’s move to bring Android apps natively on Windows 11 will only benefit his visualisation platform that allows users to run Android apps on a PC.
Sharma says it is consumers who want to use their smartphone apps on desktops, forcing companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google to look at this space more seriously. “The use case has become so dominant that they are almost forced to join the party,” Sharma tells indianexpress.com in a call from San Francisco.
Microsoft recently surprised many when it announced that it is bringing Android apps to Windows 11. But there was already a way to do it through BlueStacks, a popular and free emulator for running Android apps on Windows and macOS platforms. In fact, BlueStacks has 40 million monthly active users and over 180 million downloads per year, reaching a total of 1 billion downloads till date.
While news of the revamped Microsoft Store, which will have a section on Android apps when Windows 11 ships later this year created a lot of hype, the truth is you won’t be able to download the apps from the Google Play Store. Instead, the Android apps will be available through Amazon’s app store.
Yes, they are Android apps only but they come without Google Play Services, the key Android experience that will be available on devices running Google’s Android mobile operating system. Plus, Amazon’s app store is barren with no Google-made apps to be found. Even not all apps from Microsoft are not there.
“If you want to build a commercial product in this space, just because an app can run doesn’t mean the app is usable. For a demo, I can take TikTok and say it works but in reality, those apps, including Snapchat, are not usable because the cameras on the PCs are not good enough for those filters to work. I think it’s one thing just demoing and another thing making an app usable by consumers,” he explains.
The problem is most apps are designed for touch and not built for mouse and keyboard. “Who is going to do the work to make them playable with mouse and keyboard… there is a lot of tech that goes into this that BlueStacks supports,” he said, adding that Microsoft is in the early stages in this evolution. Citing the example of Apple, he said Cupertino has also been facing a similar issue of bringing iOS apps to macOS but its problems are different from Microsoft.
“The matrix of apps versus hardware configuration is really large,” Sharma said, referring to Microsoft’s problems as ‘Windows’ specific given that every Windows PC is different. “If they really want to productise this it will take them years.”
Sharma also noted that when Google introduced Android apps in ChromeOS it brought educational and banking apps, but to make the platform good for gaming there’s a lot of work to be done. “Google expected that the developers will do the work,” he takes a dig at the Mountain View giant. “Developers are not interested in doing the work. They always pay a few developers to bring their apps but the platform to be adopted by developers is a very different ballgame.”
The success of any platform is based on whether or not developers are willing to support it.
“Amazon’s strategy has been to get older apps because they give a higher cut to the developer. I think from that perspective, Amazon has some apps and they are bringing those apps on to the Windows Store. But I don’t know many people who use the Windows Store or the people who use the Amazon App Store.,” he said.
Sharma, the former chief technology officer at McAfee, is an alumnus of IIT-Delhi and a Ph.D. from Cornell University/Stanford. He started BlueStacks in 2009. The company gained popularity when it introduced the App Player, an Android emulator on PC in 2011. With BlueStacks, users can run any Android app on their Windows PC. BlueStacks is free to download and install.