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Why Android Apps on Windows Are Going to Reshuffle the Way We Write Apps

Microsoft announced that Windows 11 will run Android apps installable using Amazon App Store. This is going to send ripples throughout the industry, I believe.

In this blog post I want to highlight few details which I think are going to be interesting and potentially influential.

Google Play Services — de facto position is questioned

Over the past several years, Google has steadily been shifting many of the important APIs from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) to the Google Play Services. While motivation for this might have noble intentions in combating OEM driven platform fragmentation or malicious one in driving locking to the Google-controlled portion of Android, the reality has been that including Google Play Services to your app rarely had any negative impact. Of course, Google Play Services are available only on devices from manufacturers who work together with Google to put Googles services, and apps on the said devices. In the last 10 years limiting your app distribution only to Google Play Store has really had very few downsides. Amazon App Store never really gained enough momentum for it being worth for devs to put the extra effort to enable distribution there.

But now. If you call APIs provided by Google Play Services and do not spend the time to write code to handle the situation when said API is not available your app won’t run on Windows. It will not be available on Amazon App Store (or on Huawei’s App Gallery).

It might now be worth for a thinking break before jumping in and locking yourself out from the non-Google Android devices.

Amazon App Store gains relevance

Amazon App Store really hasn’t been in favour of Android app developers. It was cumbersome to keep apps in sync across multiple app stores and eventually it just wasn’t worth putting your apps on the Fire Tablets which seemed to be used mostly for book reading and video streaming anyways. There was not a lot money to be made and not being in the store was fine for more business managers.

This might change now. Windows is still the most used operating system in the world. Having all those people access your app might, all the sudden, be worth the effort. At least it is not a foregone conclusion anymore. This requires some real decision making.

Large screen optimisation for Android apps gains importance

Android tablets. Not the best track record here, to be honest. When building for Android, is it worth spending the extra effort to support larger screens? By my experience, this is on the very bottom of priorities for many business owners.. and there is a never ending, always increasing list of todo items in between. iPad, sure, Android tablets, why bother.

Google has brought Android apps to ChromeOS. They work well, actually really well. One of my favourite devices is Pixel Slate, a convertible ChromeOS tablet directly from Google. When I detach the keyboard it turns into a tablet, an Android tablet. While using Android apps with keyboard and mouse is cumbersome, touch interface is where they shine. And when the keyboard is not attached, that is exactly what the Pixel Slate is. And guess what, there are hundreds of convertible Windows devices out there, including some really fantastic ones from Microsoft. For all of these devices, Android apps have potential of becoming the main apps used when in tablet mode. — Assuming they are well optimised for large screen use!

Microsoft solves the perpetual chicken-egg problem of Android large screen optimisation importance with one swift swoop. Over night, optimising for large screen use might enable a feasible, new revenue stream.

TL;DR

Microsoft’s move to join forces with Amazon is creating a new, significant, marketplace for apps that do not lean on the Google ecosystem. It might change the landscape permanently and greatly impact how we build Android apps in the future. Interesting times ahead!

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Juhani Lehtimäki

Dad | Founder, CTO @snappmobile_io | CEO @snappautomotive | GDE, Android | GDG-Android Munich organiser