Microsoft announced yesterday that its public preview of the Amazon Appstore apps on Windows 11 would now be available to anyone running its latest operating system version (Here’s how to enable it). The company states that it’s adding this to enable more users to work and play their own way. After receiving the update on my game dev PC, I had a peek around the newly added apps and was instantly turned off from the idea of apps on Windows whatsoever. Let me explain.
I was already against the idea of adding apps to such a powerful, free and open ecosystem to begin with for several reasons. First, most Windows users that I know aren’t using a Windows tablet-style device with touch as their primary input method. Second, most Windows users that I know aren’t using Windows casually. Third, most people that I know who run Windows aren’t the type of people that mobile apps normally target. For all of these reasons, I simply can’t come to grips, and after booting up the offerings, my stance was set in cement.
Who exactly are these for?
Sure, there are millions of people who use Microsoft’s OS casually, but when is the last time you saw any of those individuals take advantage of their device for more than just web browsing? Even if they did, I can’t imagine that the older folks in my family who are less tech-literate and open Chrome to visit Facebook and Gmail and their banking website would play apps and games with a mouse to try to emulate touch controls. Anyone with a touchscreen Windows device is likely a tinkerer, not a layperson. In saying this, I doubt I’m in the minority in my opinions here.
Windows has always been about enabling you to work and play your way. And what makes Windows, well, Windows, is the variety of apps available to let you do just that.Windows Blog
I disagree with this quote above if we take “apps” to mean Amazon’s newly added apps. Windows is Windows because it offers users a “window” into limitless possibilities. Unlike Chrome OS, it’s not restricted 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 tied to creating something, Windows is still on top of the hill.
Gamers already have what they want
Most of the apps that I could see on the Windows Store as a part of the Amazon Appstore preview were games. Not only that, they were pretty crappy games (no offense to the developers, it’s just my opinion). Games like Subway Surfer are great, but again, you run into the issue of pretending you’re touching the screen by clicking and dragging the mouse. Other than that, you’re looking at titles like Talking Tom Cat, Peppa Pig, and so on. 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 create modern experiences for Amazon’s Appstore since it’s seen as ‘the other guy’, just like Microsoft’s Store.
Add to that the fact that most gamers use Windows to load up Steam, the Epic Game Store, or even Xbox Game Pass to get top-tier content, and it’s even more difficult to see why Amazon apps are becoming a part of Windows. Anyone playing the games present here or at least who fits within their target demographic is likely already going to have a Chromebook, an Android phone, or a tablet, and they’re going to go straight to the better offering – Google Play.
Google Play Services
That brings me to another point – While Microsoft states that 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 will be worth your time for two reasons. First, Amazon doesn’t use Google Play Services, meaning that no Google apps or anything you’re going to want to make use of or search for first will be available. Second, anything on the preview that wasn’t a preschool game or something from the dawn of time could basically just be opened in the Chrome browser and used as a web application.
Even if you take away the Amazon apps, Microsoft has a habit of creating Windows-specific experiences for “apps” that are just glorified websites in a container or a wrapper that you have to install. I don’t fault them for this, because the problem with Windows being so open and amazing is that it’s difficult to drive Discovery for more casual users and new users alike.
Web apps should be the focus
If I were Microsoft, I would do what I keep telling Google to do – get every web app in the world onto their store and drop an icon on it so people can find new and interesting experiences without having to search the open web for them. We already see many PWAs entering into the Google Play Store, so the transition to the future has begun, but we still have a long way to go.
Microsoft should just cater to web apps on its store and stop wasting its time with these odd choices to add strange games. Obviously, this comes directly out of its partnership with Amazon, but maybe my bias is seated in the fact that I’ve always disliked Amazon’s Appstore compared to Google’s. Instead of feeling empowered with Android apps on Windows 11, I feel restricted and teased – exactly like I did when I bought and returned a Kindle Fire years ago. I’m not saying that apps don’t belong on Windows, but I don’t think they offer much value to most people and probably won’t for many years. I’m all in favor of competition to Google, but this is a poor start if I’m being honest.
In the end, my recommendation for anyone getting 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 the Chrome browser on your Windows 11 device, turn any website into an icon that’s immediately accessible and call it a day.