Surface 'Centaurus' could run Android apps — but would that really help 'Windows Lite' succeed?

It is rumored that Microsoft is working on Android app support for Surface "Centaurus", Microsoft's upcoming dual-screen tablet 2-in-1 that runs a new flavor of Windows Core OS known as "Windows Lite." This new version of Windows is designed to kickstart Windows into a new era, featuring a brand-new lightweight user experience, fast and fluid animations, and with some legacy components removed.

Will Android apps even make a difference?

Can Android apps make a difference when it comes to app support on a device like Centaurus? The ability to run Android apps on Windows is not a new idea and is something you can do today on Windows 10 via tools like Bluestacks, but it's a niche thing that people do on Windows. I've never seen your average user say they depend on Android app support on their PC, however. Most people using a Windows PC are simply using a web browser to get all their activities done.

And if they're not using a web browser, they're likely using a program that's already in the Microsoft Store, like Spotify or Office. The introduction of Android app support could fill the gaps where necessary, but on a device like Centaurus, I'm not sure if supporting Android apps is going to make a huge difference. Android tablets haven't exactly taken off, and most Android apps scale poorly on screen sizes larger than your average smartphone. Centaurus is rumored to have nine-inch displays.

Perhaps Microsoft is leaning into the upcoming Android Q desktop feature, which essentially turns any Android smartphone into a Continuum-compatible device. If developers begin taking that seriously, more apps will be built-out with desktop use in mind. That could very much change things for Centaurus, so in that context, adding the ability to run Android apps on Windows Core OS makes perfect sense.

How will the emulation work?

Microsoft Store

Microsoft Store (Image credit: Windows Central)

You also have to wonder how exactly Microsoft is planning to enable Android app support on Windows Core OS. I don't think it'll be "natively" via the Microsoft Store. I think it's possible that Microsoft would go the route of simply enabling third-party emulators (such as Bluestacks) to operate on Windows Core OS instead of building out its own "native" Android app ecosystem on Windows like it was planning with "Astoria."

The reason for this, I think, surrounds the legality of it all. Google would have to agree to something like Astoria, and Microsoft would have to pay for the Google Play Services license, because Google Play is required for many popular Android apps to be useful. Leaving it up to third-party emulators like Bluestacks means it isn't Microsoft that has to handle all the licensing and agreements with Google.

It also means Microsoft could tie it in with the whole open store idea that it announced with HoloLens 2. Bluestacks could be a storefront for Android apps on Windows Core OS that can seamlessly integrates with the Windows Shell experience, kind of like how Steam games download via the Steam store but are listed in your Start menu and placed on your desktop. An API layer would be required to enable this for emulators, but it isn't impossible.

What are your thoughts on the possibility of Android app support on Centaurus? Let us know in the comments.

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Zac Bowden
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Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

72 Comments
  • This is one of those things where we'll need to see how it plays out with the hardware. Right now, I have no idea what the hardware will be like or what use cases it's designed for. I do think there's value in this approach to some degree though. It's just a matter of how much.
  • Your sense is correct: A browser and what is already built-in, and at the Microsoft Store for Win 10, is all I've required and expect to require. I still have Windows 7 on my Intel NUC, and Win 10 on two tablets: a Surface and a Yoga Book. I'll soon have to give up Windows 7, on which I've become quite expert, but I've now learned Win 10 well enough to know what I need and not.
  • The only thing I can say for certain is that if this support depends on the goodwill of Google (ha!) or that of mobile app developers generally (most of whom seem to despise Microsoft and Windows), it is doomed to fail.
  • Could you really blame developers for hating MS after MS' and Nadella's behaviour towards them?
  • 1) MS dropped WP
    2) devs hate MS cause MS dropped WP.
    3) devs went to Android camp What's the right order?
    1, 2, 3? or just 3? WP is destined to die cause phone market can only allows 1 not-iOS OS to breath.
    WP came to the party late with 0 user base. And 0 user base == 0 dev base, 0 dev base == 0 user base, the famous chicken and egg loop.
    And WP/W10M was a pointless effort because they are not a Windows. They don't run the same UWP/XPA we run on our Windows Classic or WCOS.
    Current CEO knew that and it's why WCOS is in the work.
  • If devs weren't supporting WP in the first place, why would they care if Microsoft dropped it?
  • Got to disagree that wp was late to the party. They had the mobile world pretty much to themselves before the iPhone arrived. The flaw was arrogance and then appointing Nadella who simply surrendered without a fight after annoying the hell out of developers by dumping damned near everything in his obsession with Azure, a policy that is not playing out so well here in Australia when government opted for Amazon in preference to Nadella's obsession.
  • Well, unlike for Windows 10 Mobile, I don't think they can still use the argument that it was too resource intensive. At this point, I don't see why they shouldn't reprise the feature.
  • I think it's most likely an Amazon approach, rather than just leave it to apps like Bluestacks. That would be very clumsy and wouldn't really help them.
  • I think MS should add qualified and selected Android apps to the Microsoft store only, but they should find ways to encourage developers to create Windows or PWA versions to the store instead.
  • I agree that Android apps running on Windows don't seem like a legit solution to the "app gap" to me. MicroSOFT is supposed to be a "software" company. So why not act like a software company and either purchase software to fill a certain perceived "gap" or write the bloody apps themselves? Case in point... Mint. It's the poster child of an app "gap" app. While the MS Store has come a long way in many other areas, there are few if any quality finance apps on the MS Store. And Intuit is the poster child of an arrogant, thankless, company refusing to support an OS that helped make them great in the first place. So why not offer a cool BILLION dollars to the first startup who'll create a competing app? A billion is a lot of money, but it's a "cheaper" option than purchasing Mint from Intuit for 8 billion. MS doesn't always need to spend 7.5 billions here, 26.2 billion trying to buy their way out of trouble. A mere billion $ reward would be pretty tempting to most hungry MIT grad geniuses to go up against Intuit. Basically this is what Nintendo did, when the "big" game companies spurned the Wii-U. They either wrote great games themselves, or they turned to Indie companies for new titles. Why not tell arrogant companies like Intuit to go fly a kite, and offer a billion $ reward to some upstart to put the horses' asses out of business? Or at least take a bite out of their market share? I'm positive some MIT or IIT grad buddies would jump at it.
  • Concerns in summary: Short term?
    Yes, it would prevent all the DOA articles from the biased technosphere which are regurgitated adnauseam by clueless individuals thus enabling some number of sales. Long term?
    No, it would be a disaster for the entire windows ecosystem as it completely undermines every single thing that has been done to unify Windows all across devices. Plus it enables Google a bigger foot hold and Google is far too big for their breeches already.
  • You realize they can skip Google entirely, right? And distribute it using Windows Store?
  • @dustojnik hummer. You are missing the obvious flaw with that direction. With AOSP android Microsoft will have to use their own APIs and rework or create alot of APIs as well. Then the android apps would have to be updated to include these aforesaid APIs. Then they will have to shoehorn all these new APIs into the o/s so that works across all other devices. So effectively they would be starting from scratch and introducing android based malware into Windows. Which enables another vector of security holes and zero day exploits. So yeah, what is the point when Microsoft has spent decades getting the stage where the underlying software is unified across devices?
  • I think Microsoft does a good enough job undermining themselves. By basically back tracking on the whole premise of UWP and then eventually moving back to win 32 apps and calling those uwps. They need all the help they can get otherwise, it's dead in the water again.
  • "Google Play is required for many popular Android apps to be useful" - How google owns android without owning it
  • Amazon has sold a ton of devices that use Android without involving Google.
  • @Tarkus13. Sure but it uses Amazon's store which has paltry selection of apps. It's the App gap issue all over again.
  • Eh, I mean the windows store has more apps than the amazon store, but they aren't THE SAME apps. Same with PWA, PWA has a very small offering, but a very small offering of fantastic apps. Between the three, I'm not sure why you'd need google mobile services. Amazon and microsoft have been pretty cozy recently too. Hence why I think the supposition of legal issues is flawed to start. If windows core can run amazon appstore apps, windows store apps, and appized PWAs, I don't think anyone could really call that an app gap. At least not a significant one for the vast majority of users. If that slows development, microsoft could always phase out android apps later on, once the user base is there.
  • Never saw such an app.
  • to get google play store Apps Microsoft would have go the route everyone else has to go to use
    them. such as pay a fee & do other things Google require play store users to do such as
    become tied to Google services which I donot think Microsoft wants to do. Windows 10's
    store already has the Apps i use which is not many so the Centaurus using Android apps is
    a none issue to me. What bothers me is the Centaurus's 2 touch screen are 9 inch
    diagonal 4 by 3 aspect ratio. which is like having two ipad 9.7 screen tablets joined together
    by hinges. this is not a small device. the original 2010 MS Courier had 2 separate 7 inch
    diagonal touch screen with a 4 by 3 aspect ratio. this device was smaller and more
    compact a device to carry around. the Centaurus will be bulkier heavier. I hope
    that Microsoft builds the smaller dual 7 inch diagonol 4 by 3 touch screen Centaurus
    because it will be easier to carry around
  • …so you’re suggesting a pocketable Andromeda like device?
  • Yes.. I am wondering exactly how Android apps on Windows would work🤔🤔🤔
  • Or they can just go around Google in Amazon-style approach. Just distribute APK files using Windows Store and allow sideloading.
  • It'd help with banking apps. My bank only supports iOS and Android. I can use the web browser on my surface but if I want to make a mobile check deposit, I have to, you know,...use my... 'mobile' device.
  • I would switch banks ... the PC is my main device for anything critical (since i trust Android only as far as i can throw it), and i would never do banking on it more than checking my bank balance - which i do with the mobile website.
  • Windows is way less secure than Android. It is not unusual for Windows to be exploited in the wild while it is very rare that an Android phone is compromised.
  • I could care less if a Surface device running Android apps would succeed.. At least not succeed in the sense that most of you may imagine, which is by relavance to Android, and iOS.. I don't think a devices destiny should hing on the fact of whether, or not, it could potentially sell comparative to iDriod in numbers. That's stupid. It's all about options, and bringing options to the table that could spawn into other options that may make a big impact. How could we get there if we don't try??? MS may make a device that's not wildly popular by any means, but one of their partners might perfect the concept. I think that's more the point of the surface brand, and what MS's intentions are. Nevertheless, Android apps can't hurt bring a few more testers aboard. I have no idea what the question is, and why this is even a discussion. A Windows PC is already useful Af. What idiot would complain about adding even more functionality to it? Devices are pretty damn simple. You either love the concept, it's attainable to you, and you get one, or you don't think the device will do you any good, and you pass, and go on with your life... Currently, I have Zero use for HoloLens, and will not buy one, but some people do, and I think it's a great idea MS keep investing into that sector, because someone will eventually get it right. I do not have a problem with MS throwing darts at the board. Anyone who thinks Android & iOS are the end of mobile technological advancement is an idiot, or hasn't lived long enough to see huge shifts in the way the world does things. Those same people are the ones who hold us back. Stay open minded, people.
  • >A Windows PC is already useful Af. What idiot would complain about adding even more functionality to it? I actually don't understand this. And it would help 2in1 and tablet users if it was not slow emulation!
  • Yeah, that's the key... It has to work seamlessly, or people won't use it. That's why I'm curious how it will be implemented.
  • Sure, it could be useful. But emulating droid apps are not all ways straight forward. In any case it's not a game MS should play. Sadly, atm platforms are essential, and apps are a huge part of that. MS can't live with android emulation as some kind of respirator, and if they use Android to get high sales, how could they ever get out of the arrangement? No, MS need good enough HW, and a OS that survives the first reviews. Those two things need to be so good every reviewer should say I want this, it just lacks som apps, but luckily the most important apps are there. And then MS should make porting apps to the MS easy as F....
  • Apps are not coming to Windows. Not without help.. I don't really think it's about high sales, but even if MS made an extremely nice surface device that might be centered around ultimate portability, people would still want apps.. Another thing.. Just because emulation has been subpar in the future why do you think that has to be the case indefinitely?
  • Easy, get devices out there, then announce a cut for android support with a slow window. Users = development.
  • Centarus doesn't compete with Android or iPhone. It competes with Windows. You aren't going to entice iPad people. Microsoft's only hope is cannibalizing legacy Windows users. Not sure where else they can come from.
  • Rodneyej I don't think you are aware of the