Posey's Tips & Tricks

Microsoft Retires the Windows Subsystem for Android

Did its death come too soon?

I have been writing about Windows since the days of Windows 3.1. As you can imagine, I have seen a lot of Windows operating systems come and go during that time. The one thing that all of these Windows releases had in common with one another was that they all came with a long list of new features. However, that wasn't exactly the case for Windows 11.

When Windows 11 was released in 2021, it did of course offer some new features. Even so, the list of new features was far shorter than what we have seen with other Windows releases. In fact, almost all of the new features that were available at the time of Windows 11's initial release were related to the redesigned GUI. At the time, I wrote that many were saying that Windows 11 was basically just Windows 10 with a user interface. I even said at the time that I was hard pressed to think of a compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 11.

In spite of all of this, Windows 11 did come with one killer feature. The Windows Subsystem for Android made it possible to run Android apps on the Windows desktop. Of course this new feature was a bit late to the party. While Windows 11 was released in October 2021, the Windows Subsystem for Android did not become generally available until February 2022 -- four months after the initial Windows 11 release. Even at that, the Windows Subsystem for Android was only designed to work with apps found in the Amazon Appstore.

Recently, Microsoft announced that it is ending support for the Windows Subsystem for Android. While it is relatively common for Microsoft to end support for aging products, the Windows Subsystem for Android was only two years old at the time that the announcement was made. In all the years that I have been writing about Windows, I am hard pressed to think of another Windows feature that was terminated so quickly. I also can't seem to recall another situation in which Microsoft pulled the plug on an operating system's most celebrated new feature. Yes, Microsoft pulled the plug on the new file system that was supposed to have been released with Windows Vista, but that happened before Vista was ever released.

So what does this announcement mean for Windows 11? If you currently have the Amazon Appstore or Android apps installed, you will be able to keep using them until March 5, 2025. At that point, they will be going away.

At the time of Windows 11's initial release, the new GUI, the TPM 2.0 requirement, and the Windows Subsystem for Android were essentially the only things that made Windows 11 different from Windows 10. At this point in time however, Windows 11 doesn't even really need a killer feature. New PCs automatically ship with Windows 11 and Windows 10 licenses are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Never mind that Windows 10 will reach its end of support date next year on Oct. 14, 2025. All of this is to say that Microsoft doesn't need to include a killer feature in Windows 11 as a way of enticing customers to adopt the operating system, because at this point Windows 11 is practically the only option available.

Of course, just because Microsoft doesn't need to include a killer feature as a way of enticing customers to adopt Windows 11, it doesn't mean that Windows 11 lacks a killer feature. Although Windows 11 included hardly any new features when it was first released, Microsoft has added plenty of new features to the operating system since that time. As it stands right now, Copilot could be considered to be Windows 11's killer feature.

Microsoft also has several other new Windows 11 features planned for release. For example, Microsoft is making it so that you will be able to use your Android phone as a webcam. On the surface, this seems like a really odd feature. However, I have a feeling that a good number of people will make use of this feature. After all, high end Android phones tend to have really good quality cameras. There will undoubtedly be those who are able to achieve better camera quality from their phones than from their Windows 11 PC's integrated camera.

Microsoft is also going to be adding a number of skills to Windows 11 Copilot so that it will be able to interact with the operating system in a more meaningful and useful way. Users will be able to use Copilot to do things such as empty their recycle bin, view batter information, or display the available Wi-Fi networks. Some of the other new features being introduced include voice shortcuts and AI driven snap layouts.

I haven't heard anyone at Microsoft give an official reason why the Windows Subsystem for Android is being removed from Windows 11. My guess is that Microsoft's actions can probably be attributed to customer's lack of interest in the feature and Microsoft's changing priorities (going all-in on Copilot). In any case, I think that Windows 11 will probably continue to evolve throughout its lifespan.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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