Windows 11 users get Android app previews
Microsoft on Tuesday announced previews of Android-based apps for US Windows 11 users, among other improvements.
Other enhancements include new Windows 11 operating system features arriving this month. Additionally, Microsoft has released new Notepad and Media Player apps for Windows 11 which are currently available in the Microsoft Store.
Microsoft also partially explained that it plans to use Microsoft’s service delivery mechanism to bring new features to Windows 11 users, in addition to its once-a-year feature updates.
Previews of Android apps on Windows 11
Microsoft previewed running Android apps on Windows 11 in a Windows Insider Program beta in October. Now, previews of “more than 1,000 additional apps and games” are available today for US users in the Microsoft Store through an Amazon Appstore preview, the announcement says.
Essentially, the new Microsoft Store can host the collections of other app stores. In this case, Microsoft has partnered with Amazon to bring Android apps to Windows 11.
Android apps can run on Windows 11 because Windows 11 has a component called “Windows Subsystem for Android”, which is a virtual machine that provides compatibility with the Android Open Source Project framework used by apps.
Microsoft has “feature-specific” hardware requirements for applications using the Windows Subsystem for Android component, which are described here. These applications are meant to be a “new category of mobile apps and games available for Windows“, based on the Android platform and Intel Bridge technology. Intel Bridge technology allows Arm-only applications to run on AMD and Intel devices.
The type of Amazon Appstore preview apps currently available in the Microsoft Store for US users include “Audible, Kindle, Subway Surfers, Lords Mobile, Khan Academy Kids and many more,” the announcement said. Microsoft plans to announce an expansion of Android titles for Windows 11 “later this year.”
New media player and notepad apps
Windows 11 users can currently download the new Microsoft Media Player and Notepad apps from the Microsoft Store.
Microsoft had previewed its new Media Player app to play music and video files on Windows 11 in November as part of its Windows Insider Program. The new app replaces the venerable Windows Media Player, which is still available to Windows 11 users through Windows Tools, if desired. The new Media Player app will replace Microsoft’s Groove Music app, if installed. Existing Groove Music libraries will automatically migrate to the new Media Player app upon installation, Microsoft promised.
The new Notepad app appears to be the same notepad, but with the ability to use dark mode for its display. Microsoft also added a few other new features to it, such as “multi-level undo, colorful emojis, and a modern and efficient find-and-replace experience.”
Other new Windows 11 features in preview
Microsoft has added new features to the Windows 11 taskbar, which are available this month through a “February 2022 non-security preview release.” Typically, users need to sign up for previews of non-security fixes from Microsoft, which arrive through the Windows Update service. Panay, however, did not specify whether getting these new Windows 11 preview features is optional or not.
Among the new features in Windows 11 is a mute and unmute button located on the operating system’s taskbar. It allows users with many screens to quickly respond appropriately during Microsoft Teams online meetings. Microsoft has also added the ability to more easily share taskbar screens in online meetings via a control that appears when you hover your mouse cursor over an item. The mute/unmute button and screen sharing capability are “available to Microsoft Teams users with a work or school account,” Microsoft said.
Microsoft has also improved the Windows 11 weather widget in the left corner of the taskbar to show “up-to-date” weather information. If a user clicks on it, the whole “widget array” will open.
Finally, Microsoft added the ability to show the clock on the taskbar on multiple monitors using Windows 11.
New Windows 11 feature update scheme
Microsoft is planning to change its approach to releasing new Windows 11 features somewhat. It will use its “maintenance”, which likely means the Windows Update service (used to deliver fixes) and Microsoft Store updates, like way to distribute new operating system features.
Here’s how Panos Panay, product director for Windows and devices, described Microsoft’s new approach to Windows 11:
Over time, you’ll see us releasing new features more frequently in Windows 11 for end users in addition to our annual update. We will leverage the variety of update mechanisms we have in place, including Microsoft Store maintenance and updates. Our goal is to provide continuous innovation, giving you the best experiences all year round.
Windows 11 usually gets new features with “feature updates,” which are new versions of the operating system that arrive once a year. Microsoft also has a monthly security and quality patch release cycle, but so far it has not been used to deliver new operating system features.
Under the old monthly patch cycle described earlier, Microsoft typically previewed its security and quality software patches during the third and fourth weeks of a given month. They were available on an opt-in basis. However, Panay did not say when the new Windows 11 features might arrive under the proposed new scheme using Microsoft’s services. He also didn’t say whether the new features would be optional or not.
Microsoft still plans to continue its Windows Insider program to “incubate new ideas” and try out “different concepts with our features and services,” Panay said.