Android on Microsoft - a tale of two videos. And caveats galore...

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The tech world is gradually turning into a homogenised soup, but hopefully in a good way. Any device will, more or less, eventually be able to run any application or service, and it's down to you as to which form factor, which hardware you choose to use or carry around. In this case, I'm looking at two videos demonstrating 'Android on Microsoft', as I've termed it. We already have the Microsoft 'Your Phone' system, linking an Android smartphone (ideally from Samsung) to Windows, we already have Microsoft apps and services on both iOS and Android - the videos below show the new Surface Duo 2, with a two-pane Android experience with Microsoft front and centre, and a first look at Android applications running on Windows 10 Desktop, on your laptop or ultra-mobile.

First of all, TechAutos, doing what several others have been doing in BestBuy stores in the USA in recent days, shooting video based on the tethered demonstration units, only doing it better. In this video, almost everything is tested, at least at a basic level, from interface smoothess and hinge gap, from camera stills and video to how much the Duo 2 wobbles (on a table) and folds. Great job.

Well done to TechAutos for taking along the origina Duo for comparison purposes. The only thing that really surprised me is that the triple camera system wasn't a whole lot better - but it's hard to test this sort of thing on a tethered retail unit, so I'll reserve judgement for now. I did note a couple of unexplained apertures in the edges, which I'm assuming were speakers.

I should mention that I'll have the Surface Duo 2 here at All About Towers for review within a week, so do watch this space. It's part legacy-concept-Lumia, part Android flagship, part oddball Microsoft concept, like the original Duo but with beefed up internals. 

Next up is WC's Zac Bowden doing a great job at demoing the Android app support in Windows 11. Now, note that this isn't strictly here yet, since you need to be an Insider and in the USA, but Zac does give a good flavour of how it will work and what to expect.

The main notes and caveats to watch for:

  • Android app sub-system in Windows is tied into the Amazon App Store and is completely outside Google's Play Services, so you won't be able to run any applications which use these (point of order - the vast majority of Android apps in the on-phone Play Store DO use Google Play Services)
  • The sub-system is very resource-heavy, you'll see Zac's demo using 2.5GB of RAM without even trying hard and just running one game. He recommends using a PC with 16GB RAM if you don't want things to slow down.

Although this is all pretty cool to see as a tech demo, I'm struggling to see much of a use case for it. Can you think of a single real world Android application that you'd want on your PC that couldn't be 'done' better with a Windows application or a tab inside Chrome or Edge? I can't. Of note is that Zac demonstrated Outlook for Android running smoothly and with proper window re-sizing. But why wouldn't you use Outlook in a browser window? Why wouldn't you run the Outlook UWP or Win32 clients? Each of these would be faster and even smoother, while using less RAM.

I suppose there are edge cases where you might want your favourite game or a custom 'mobile' app running on a Windows Desktop. I'd welcome suggestions on what I might have missed here. You could say that these concerns also apply to the 'Your Phone' (Link to Windows, on Samsung) system, by which Android applications also appear under Windows, but 'Your Phone' is fast and lean by comparison, plus the applications are really just running on the phone (as they'd be anyway) and you're seeing a mirror of their interface under Windows.

Which is a very different situation, I contend, from having a small subset of applications that can exist outside of Google Play Services taking up vast amounts of RAM under your already-hard-pressed Windows installation.

Sorry to be a little negative - feel free to correct me in the comments!

Update. Six hours after this feature was published, the first real reviews of the Surface Duo 2 popped up online. Typical is this, from Marques Brownlee:

It's fair to say that the Duo 2 represents about four steps forward and one step backwards. This is no happy snapper imaging phone, as the Lumias were.

But hey, it's... progress, at least.