If the release of the Surface Duo wasn’t enough of a sign that Microsoft is getting closer to Android, what about it? A report from Windows Central claims that Microsoft is working on creating support for Android apps in Windows 10.
The effort is codenamed “Project Latte” and, according to the report, it “would allow app developers to bring their Android apps to Windows 10 with little to no code changes.” Android apps on Windows would be packaged as an MSIX file and would be distributed through the Windows Store.
Much of the hard work for this is already done, thanks to the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) which already ships in Windows 10. WSL is a virtualized Linux kernel in Windows, making it easy to run Linux tools. developer-centric via the Windows Command Line. Microsoft is also testing Linux GUI application support in WSL and GPU acceleration. Android, which runs the Linux kernel, should connect to the WSL for app support, so Microsoft primarily needs to implement a version of Android Runtime (ART), which already runs on Linux, is open source, and has x86 compatibility. . Unofficially, it is already possible to run Android apps on WSL with Anbox, a project intended to run Android apps on full GNU / Linux.
Microsoft wouldn’t be the first to integrate Android app support into another operating system. Google does this internally with Chrome OS, allowing the company’s web-based laptops to run all of your favorite phone apps. For developers of also running operating systems, Android apps are often seen as a solution to fix the apps problem. Blackberry tried to stay afloat in the operating system war by bringing Android support into Blackberry 10, but it eventually gave up and started producing real Android devices before leaving the market. Samsung’s “Android-killer” Tizen operating system has an “application compatibility layer” that runs Android applications on the Linux operating system. Jolla’s Sailfish OS, an operating system touted as the spiritual successor to Nokia’s MeeGo operating system, also supports Android apps.
Microsoft also thought it was a great idea in 2015, when the now-canceled “Project Astoria” was supposed to bring Android support to Windows 10 Mobile. The next company to get into the ball rolling will be Huawei, which, after the US export ban, wants to develop its own “Harmony OS” for smartphones with support for Android apps (after running them through a special compiler).
The downsides of non-Google Android are well known at this point. Android-on-Windows won’t have access to the Play Store or Google Play Services, which many apps depend on for things like Google-made login, push notifications, map APIs, and a million other things. Windows would essentially count as a fork of Android. For apps written for the non-Google ecosystem, however, you’ll be able to easily run your favorite apps, assuming a browser version of those isn’t more preferable.
The report states that Microsoft “hopes to announce Project Latte next year and may ship as part of the fall 2021 release of Windows 10.”