back to article Windows Subsystem for Android: What's the point?

Microsoft has previewed the Subsystem for Android on Windows 11, and The Register took it for a spin. Android apps for Windows 11 was made available by Microsoft earlier this month via its Windows Insider programme, seemingly making it as hard as possible for users to get it working. The official route is a matter of first …

  1. pip25

    Different question: is this better than the existing solutions out there?

    I'm forced to use Android emulation because a smart home device I regularly use only has a mobile app. The latest Bluestacks beta works reasonably well; though it's not always 100% stable, it provides most of the things listed in this article: desktop icons for apps, the ability to run them in separate resizable windows, and, unlike Microsoft's offering, also the Google Play appstore. So I'm left wondering, how does WSA measure up to that?

    1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Re: Different question: is this better than the existing solutions out there?

      I'm hoping it's (eventually) going to be better – I'm also a smartphone refusenik, but BlueStacks, as you say, is not entirely stable; it's also a resource hog (which matters on my 8GB laptop). It also forces you to look at adverts for games with terribly misleading images of busty wenches.

    2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: Different question: is this better than the existing solutions out there?

      Thanks to the death (assassination?) of 3G, there are stacks of old phones and tablets at the local second hand shop that can be had for ~$10 each. WiFi and Bluetooth still work, so I can play with my gadgets.

      I'm pecking on an old Samsung tablet right now.

  2. Bartholomew

    What is the point ?

    The point is the exact same as Windows telemetry, to harvest as much metadata as fast as possible before the legal landscape eventually changes.

    1. Warm Braw

      Re: What is the point ?

      Compared with running Android on an actual phone?

      My own particular brand of cynicism wonders whether the point is to provide the future UI for Windows once the latest native attempt has been quietly deprecated into oblivion.

      1. Bartholomew

        Re: What is the point ?

        You could install Install F-droid on any android phone and only install open source android apps. And then never need to setup a google account. Most people choose to setup and use a google account, which is on par with Microsoft and Apple when it comes to harvesting metadata, because it is the default and they trust Alphabet Inc. (which in some ways is shocking, it always reminds me of my favourite quote 'Mark Zuckerberg: They "trust me". Dumb f*cks.').

        1. Adair Silver badge

          Re: What is the point ?

          Which is exactly what I do, plus use Aurora to anonymously log into the Playstore for the few apps I need that are not on F-droid - mostly banking apps.

          No Google account required, and none existing.

  3. Diogenes

    Think schools not devs

    There are android apps created for educational use that don't exist on windows.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe another OS2?

    I remember that OS2 made a point of running widows programs. So what happened? Not many native programs for OS2. Why should they bother when it would l run their windows programs as is.

    I can't help but wonder that a similar thing could happen with windows/android

    1. Monty Burns

      Re: Maybe another OS2?

      Better introduce DLSS and RTX drivers for Android then!

    2. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Maybe another OS2?

      Honestly, I sometimes wonder whether that's actually the point? MS see Android and iOS as eating their lunch, so why not get out of the OS game sooner rather than later? Honestly, some of the things they're doing with Windows 11, just trying to think "why" they're doing it makes my brain hurt.

      Paris Hilton because she looks as confused as I feel.

    3. Smirnov

      Re: Maybe another OS2?

      Not just on OS/2. Look at BlackBerry OS 10, which came with an Android emulator. The result was that hardly any developer came up with a native BBOS version of their apps when they could just push the existing Android version.

      1. rcxb1

        Re: Maybe another OS2?

        <blockquote>BlackBerry OS 10, which came with an Android emulator. The result was that hardly any developer came up with a native BBOS version of their apps</blockquote>

        I don't buy that one. The Blackberry installed base had become minuscule *before* BB10 was released. Then BB10 comes out and breaks backwards compatibility. I don't think the Android emulation had anything to do with the sudden-death of the platform.

  5. Jon 37

    Minimum system requirements

    > Microsoft must have its reasons, but it appears that many of these restrictions are artificial and can be bypassed

    As a software developer: We choose a minimum spec, and test our software on that spec. It may run on lower-spec PCs, at least most of the time. But then, after months of use, the user might find some part of the software that their PC is not powerful enough to run. They will then complain that our software is faulty. Err, no, the problem is that your PC doesn't meet the specs. "But it works, everything else runs". Err, no, if it worked you wouldn't be calling me.

    And we may be conservative in our choice of minimum spec. If lowering the RAM requirement from 8GB to 4GB is only going to allow a few more people to run the software, but will cost us time testing and time optimizing code in future, then someone will make a business decision whether it is worth the cost of doing that for the small amount of extra revenue.

    Also note that, over time, as the proportion of 4GB PCs drops, the extra revenue will drop but the cost of squeezing our code into a 4GB system remains, as we can't drop support for the existing users with 4GB RAM. Much better to spec 8GB minimum right from the start, so our code has room to grow as we add more features.

    1. David Neil

      Re: Minimum system requirements

      Just an aside, but being an older fart, when did we start thinking about 4GB not being enough memory to run apps?

      It just feels weird

      1. Boothy

        Re: Minimum system requirements

        I suspect part of it is simply what devices come with these days, especially business users, rather than someone at home on an ultra budget laptop.

        A 4GB laptop upgrade is around £20, 8GB around £30. So I suspect the rationale is why spend time and effort optimising code, when doubling the RAM in a typical laptop/PC is so cheap. (Assuming it's not so budget, not to have a memory slot of course).

        Even the US company I work for, who are known to penny pinch, have an entry level laptop, the default everyone gets unless you are a confirmed power user, that has 16GB RAM, and a 6 core, 12 thread Ryzen CPU. And that's the min spec option.

        1. PerlyKing

          Re: A 4GB laptop upgrade is around £20

          For Mac users, add a zero ;-)

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: A 4GB laptop upgrade is around £20

            For Mac users, add a zero ;-)

            And not in front.

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Minimum system requirements

          > that has 16GB RAM, and a 6 core, 12 thread Ryzen CPU. And that's the min spec option.

          That seems about right for W10 running Office, Teams and Zoom concurrently and users not complaining about audio-visual quality (although why vendors aren't fitting 1080 HD webcams as standard now...).

          Although my min. spec. includes HD screen and the option to add a second 16GB module.

          Dell were selling these for £660 +VAT earlier this year, which placed them among poorer spec'ed Intel systems, making the purchasing decision a no brainer.

        3. druck Silver badge

          Re: Minimum system requirements

          A 4GB laptop upgrade is around £20, 8GB around £30.

          Not for laptops which have 4G soldered to the motherboard it isn't.

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        When it became barely enough to run Windows.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Minimum system requirements

        "when did we start thinking about 4GB not being enough"

        Assuming an entire "modern" system has 4GB, then It's not just software frameworks like the obese Electron or browser tabs that have pushed it. It's also things like screen resolution, refresh rates, polling speeds... a very large list that I'm not at all educated on. However, if things are bigger and faster, you need bigger and faster caches. For Windows specifically, Windows has always seemed to want to copy things in their entirety before writing (I'm not sure on the technicalities of CURRENT WIndow's zero-copy features/policies, but they seemed non-existent at one point).

      4. Nugry Horace

        Re: Minimum system requirements

        "2 GB... is large enough to support even the largest desktop application. " -- Windows 95 Resource Kit

        1. captain veg Silver badge

          Re: Minimum system requirements

          Windows 95 was supposed to "run great" in 4MB. That's Mega Bytes. I recall that, contemporaneously. we advised a minimum of 12MB to run our software, which was more than most people had in those days. And, of course, Windows 3.x maxed out at 16MB in Standard Mode.


      5. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Minimum system requirements

        >when did we start thinking about 4GB not being enough memory to run apps?

        When we switched from 32-bit to 64-bit OS's.

        But even before that if you regularly used more than one application at a time, XP became a bit of a dog due to the page swapping (might not have been so noticeable with DDR4 and SSD).

      6. Al fazed

        Re: More Microsoft development for the sake of it

        Looking at the screen shot you need 8Gb to play Hang a man...........

        Dicks !

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Minimum system requirements

      As a software developer, time spent optimising code is always time we'll spent, imho.

  6. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I know some people who have to use multiple devices such as a 2 phones and a tablet because they want to do be logged into a particular app under multiple accounts simultaneously to separate there work from personal accounts, so being able to do that from one PC would be an advantage if Windows Subsystem for Android supports running multiple instances of an app.

  7. Mike 137 Silver badge

    SSD only?

    "... meeting requirements for processor, memory and storage type (SSD only)"

    So Nanny is now dictating what drive technology we're allowed to use?

    To quote Monty Python "this sketch is getting too silly".

    If it matters that much, why don't they just lease us the ruddy hardware with the OS?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: SSD only?

      You're making me defend them :-(. I wouldn't expect to run KDE off a floppy (or more specifically, 827 floppies).

      I'm old, but I'm also not going back to platters for anything outside of long-term permanent storage (and that's purely for $$$ reasons).

    2. Alex Stuart

      Re: SSD only?

      > If it matters that much, why don't they just lease us the ruddy hardware with the OS?

      Shhhh, don't let them hear you!

    3. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: SSD only?

      Because Android devices all use solid-state storage, and so Android apps are developed with the characteristics of solid-state I/O in mind.

  8. Howard Sway Silver badge

    It would be quite funny

    if next week, Google released Android subsystem for Windows.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: It would be quite funny

      Especially because in both cases it's named back-to-front.

  9. Pirate Dave Silver badge

    So, ehhh...

    MS could push this as the replacement for Flash on Windows. Meaning - once it's polished up and idiot-proof, it gives run-of-the-mill users access to scores of mind-numbing, generally pointless games by way of the Amazon or Google stores.

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: So, ehhh...

      I hope so, otherwise I'll have to continue searching for a stand-alone flash player.

  10. Matt 52

    Google Play Store on Win11

    For those who missed it, getting Google Play Store running on Win11 has been hitting up news sites recently. It's on my list of things to play with this weekend, being I'm in the UK and it doesn't appear to require any of the limitations (US, Beta, etc) that the official package suffers from...

  11. Samsara

    I use an android emulator on one of my Macs called 'Bluestack'.

    I was a bit dubious about installing it, but it basically runs Android as a virtual machine, & lets me use my security camera software which was only made for iOS/Android & never ported to the Mac proper.

  12. steelpillow Silver badge

    The Microsoft dream

    has long been to dominate Mobile the way IE once dominated the fixed Interweb thingy. But an interminable string of disastrous projects, even the one-time acqusition of Nokia, failed to dent the bloatware that is Windows and crush it into a mobile-sized device with room to spare for real apps. It is at last getting better, but how do you gain traction in a world of apps dominated by paywall-masters Apple and licensing-masters Google? Why you do what Google were forced to do with their own Chrome OS, and build an Android compatibility layer. Now, everybody will leap on our newest offerings with tears of joy, and the fools clinging to their Android devices will be left eating out dust, bwahahahahaaa!

    Or maybe the leopard has changed its spots, we'll see.

  13. cb7

    "living our commitment to openness," enabling Windows users to run apps "regardless of the technology used".

    In that case I'd like to run macOS and iOS apps on Windows too. I won't be holding my breath though.

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: "living our commitment to openness"

      More like MS are living in cloud cuckooland - still, that's nothing new...

  14. Luke Worm

    Subsystems for everyone

    Looking forward to "Microsoft OS" based on Linux, with a subsystem for Linux, subsystem for Android, and of course subsystem for Windows to run the Office package.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Luke Worm - Re: Subsystems for everyone

      You're looking at it wrong! It will be : pay MS a Windows licence and have a MS account no matter what platform you use.

    2. Doug 3

      Re: Subsystems for everyone

      Wasn't there an IBM and Apple OS which was designed to run OS personalities? If you ran Mac OS native you could run Windows and IBM OS/2 personalities seamlessly. Likewise if running OS/2 as the host the Mac and Windows personalities could be run. I think the actual OS personalities were hidden and what you were supposed to get is seamless windowing of apps.

      All on PowerPC hardware at the time. CHRP comes to mind.

      But Microsoft is not interested in that. They must have Windows dominating the corporate office and back office even if it requires them to provide ways to run and monitor other virtualized OS's. They will have their marketing department figure some special little thing they'll add to their version of the virtualization and tell them customers this is why they should run MS-Linux or MS-Android, etc on their Windows subsytem for X, Y, Z.

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: Subsystems for everyone

        Wasn't there an IBM and Apple OS which was designed to run OS personalities?

        I hate my memory sometimes. As soon as I read that, it immediately piped up with “Ah yes, Taligent”. Random trivia about the early 90s tech landscape: gotcha. Birthdays of close friends and family: nope, all blank, nada, sorry…

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Equal opportunity

    More opportunities for malware can't be a bad thing, can it?

  16. Al fazed

    Wet dreams

    Windows 11 ?

    Another of Microsoft's wet dreams continues into the wakefull world of 2021, 8Gb, SSD only, IPV6 trix for the security pricks and it will still struggle to put a decent moving image on the screen, 'cos the icons have rounded corners..............

    What a sham, a scam, in fact it's like fat in the pan, I do not like it man ..............

    No wonder the world is in a jam, we are using a frying pan for preserving the fruits of our labour, when a working printer/scanner was all I ever wanted .............


  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would laugh until I puked..

    ...if Windows subsystem + API shim + Linux kernel turned out to be faster than 100% actual Windows.

    Then I would do it all over again.

  18. Slions

    Why no Windows 10?

    I'm the developer of a little known open source Android web browser named Fulguris and I would love to get WSA for Windows 10 so that I could use it on desktop. To me that's the only interresting feature on Windows 11, everything else looks more like regressions. Which brings me to my next point. In the context of global warming it's ambarassing to see a megacorp like MS applying arbitrary hardware limitations to Windows 11 and withholding such features from Windows 10. Those cheap tricks to get people to upgrade and consume more material resources ought to be banned.

    MS please, bring WSA to Windows 10.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like