Microsoft announced yesterday that its public preview of Amazon Appstore apps on Windows 11 will now be available to anyone running its latest version of the operating system (Here’s how to activate it). The company says it’s adding this to allow more users to work and play in their own way. After receiving the update on my game development PC, I took a look at the newly added apps and was instantly disconnected from the idea of apps on Windows. Let me explain.
I was already against the idea of adding apps to such a powerful, free and open ecosystem for several reasons. First, most Windows users I know don’t use a Windows tablet-like device with touch as their primary input method. Second, most Windows users I know don’t casually use Windows. Third, most people I know who use Windows are not the type of people that mobile apps normally target. For all these reasons, I just can’t figure it out, and after launching the offers, my position was frozen.
Who exactly are they for?
Sure, there are millions of people who casually use Microsoft’s operating system, but when’s the last time you saw one of those people taking advantage of their device for more than just browsing the website? Even if they did, I can’t imagine the older folks in my family who are less tech savvy and open Chrome to visit Facebook and Gmail and their banking website would play apps and games with a mouse to try to imitate touch controls. Anyone with a touchscreen Windows device is likely a do-it-yourselfer, not a layman. In saying that, I doubt I’m in the minority in my opinions here.
Windows was always designed to let you work and play your way. And what makes Windows, well, Windows, is the variety of apps available to let you do just that.
I disagree with this quote above if we take “apps” to refer to newly added apps from Amazon. Windows is Windows because it gives users a “window” to limitless possibilities. Unlike Chrome OS, it is not limited in its ability to run full-fledged software. Yes, web apps are taking off and becoming more powerful than ever, but traditional downloaded software still reigns supreme for hardcore creatives. Be it video editing, design, game development or any other profession related to creating something, Windows is always at the top of the hill.
Players already have what they want
Most of the apps I could see on the Windows Store as part of the Amazon Appstore preview were games. On top of that, they were pretty shitty games (don’t mind the devs, that’s just my opinion). Games like Subway Surfer are great, but again you run into the problem of pretending you’re touching the screen by clicking and dragging the mouse. Apart from that, you watch titles like Talking Tom Cat, Peppa Pig, etc. The last time I saw many of these games was when I got my first Android phone… over a decade ago. Most people don’t build modern experiences for Amazon’s Appstore because it’s considered the “other guy” just like Microsoft’s Appstore.
Add to that the fact that most gamers use Windows to sideload Steam, the Epic Game Store, or even Xbox Game Pass to get premium content, and it’s even harder to see why Amazon apps are now part of Windows. Anyone playing the games here or at least matching their target demographic will probably already have a Chromebook, Android phone or tablet, and they’ll go straight to the best deal – Google Play.
Google Play Services
This brings me to another point – While Microsoft says it will make over a thousand apps available on Windows 11 from the Amazon Appstore, I couldn’t find an official list, and the preview was limited to a few dozen, but I can’t imagine they’ll be worth your time for two reasons. First of all, Amazon doesn’t use Google Play Services, which means no Google apps or whatever you might want to use or search for first will be available. Second, any preview item that wasn’t a preschool game or something from the dawn of time could just be opened in the Chrome browser and used as a web app.
Even if you remove Amazon apps, Microsoft has a habit of creating Windows-specific experiences for “apps” which are just glorified websites in a container or wrapper that you need to install. I don’t blame them for that, because the problem with Windows being so open and amazing is that it’s hard to pilot Discovery for more casual users and new users.
Web apps should be the focus
If I were Microsoft, I’d do what I keep telling Google to do: install all the web apps in the world on their store and drop an icon there so users can find great new experiences without having to search the open web for them. We are already seeing many PWAs entering the Google Play Store, so the transition to the future has begun, but we still have a long way to go.
Microsoft should just respond to the web apps on its store and stop messing around with these weird choices to add weird games. Obviously, this stems directly from its partnership with Amazon, but maybe my bias is that I’ve always hated Amazon’s Appstore over Google’s. Instead of feeling empowered with Android apps on Windows 11, I feel limited and teased – just like I did when I bought and returned a Kindle Fire years ago. I’m not saying apps don’t belong in Windows, but I don’t think they offer much value to most people and probably won’t for many years. I’m all for competing with Google, but it’s a bad start if I’m being honest.
Ultimately, my recommendation for anyone who’s excited to play with Android apps on Windows is this: unless you’re a developer who wants to tinker, just buy a Chromebook for apps, open Chrome browser on your Windows 11 device, turn any website into an immediately accessible icon and call it a day.