With Windows 11, Microsoft is bringing Android apps to the desktop platform, which the company wants you to get primarily from the Store. However, similar to Windows 10 Mobile’s Project Astoria and Android, you’re also allowed to sideload apps on Windows 11 outside the store.
For those unfamiliar, “sideload” is the process of installing Android apps on your device that hasn’t gone through the Microsoft Store or Amazon Appstore certification. You can download APKs from sites like APKMirror and double click on the file to run on a Windows device.
By default, it is likely that Windows 11 will block sideloading of Android apps to protect you and your Windows device. This is because only certified mobile or desktop apps are considered secure and certification also ensures that you’re installing/downloading a good app that has passed through Microsoft/Amazon’s standards.
— Miguel de Icaza (@migueldeicaza) June 25, 2021
If you want to sideload apps, you may need to use Windows 11’s built-in developer mode feature, which can be enabled from Windows Settings app.
Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA)
As you’re probably, Windows comes with its own subsystem for Linux (WSL), which was introduced back in 2016. On Windows 11, WSL2 runs on its own kernel, device drivers, kernel modules, and users can even place their Linux files within the root file system.
With Windows 11, Microsoft is introducing two new features – GUI support for WSL and WSA (Windows Subsystem for Android).
Using the WSL technology, Microsoft has now created Windows Subsystem for Android to run mobile apps on the desktop. WSA is similar to the existing Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) and it will provide support for “proxy” between the native app container and Android app.
Microsoft is also integrating a virtual machine that would enable compatibility for the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). Since WSA is based on advancements from Project Astoria and WSL2, performance is expected to be better than the traditional emulators available in the market. This is one of the key upgrades for WSL2 over WSL1.
To better support Android apps on Windows, Microsoft is working with Amazon to bring its Appstore to Windows 11. Amazon Appstore will be integrated into Microsoft Store for Android apps section and all users will have access to the Amazon marketplace, but there’s a catch – not every Android app in the Appstore will run on Windows 11.
Microsoft officials confirmed Android apps will be enabled in future builds of Windows 11 and the first preview build will not include Android Subsystem for Windows.
At the moment, it’s unclear exactly how the APK sideloading process will work on Windows and whether Microsoft is working on a special installer for mobile apps.
We have reached out to Microsoft for comment, and this story will be updated if we hear anything more from the company.