If you follow tech news, you will know that Microsoft have recently announced Windows 11 – the next version of Windows. As well as some cosmetic changes, it will be capable of running Android applications. This is a significant improvement to Windows and is something that I genuinely think is paradigm-shifting. Here’s why.
When Windows was first launched it ran “Windows applications”. It ran only on 16 bit architecture – the original IBM compatible hardware with a few upgrades. In July 1993, Microsoft released Windows NT 3.1 – Windows “New Technology”. A 32-bit version of Windows. It was the first version of Windows NT, but was numbered to align with the then-current number of the non-NT version of Windows. Windows NT had a more stable design that could be used by businesses in a reliable way. It went through several redesigns including a change in design to match Windows 95 with Windows NT 4. Windows 2000 (Windows NT 5) was the first version of Windows NT that started to include drivers for non-business devices, allowing it to be used by enthusiasts on non-business computers. Windows ME, which was the non-NT version of Windows at the same time was widely panned for being horribly unstable.
The next year, Microsoft launched Windows XP – the first consumer focused version of Windows NT – and abandoned the prior code base entirely. Windows XP was the first 64-bit non-server version of Windows. Officially, Windows XP was Windows NT 5.1. Windows Vista was NT 6, Windows 7 was NT 6.1 and Windows 10 was renumbered NT 10.
All this to say, Windows has changed architectures a few times, and it has run on different hardware, and has evolved quite a lot from its earliest incarnation where windows could not overlap.
As well as running on the current Intel processors, Windows 10 runs on new processors designed by a company named ARM. ARM processors are designed by a company that does not make chips, so good chip design is key to their success as a company. They need chip manufacturers, and other users, to really value the design of the processors. ARM processors, then, are more energy-efficient and, for some tasks, are faster than the Intel chips used in most desktop and laptop computers.
In the past, Microsoft tried to make a mobile phone version of Windows, but it failed for a number of reasons. But I think Windows 11 could be a new opportunity. If Windows 11 runs on non-Intel processors, can run Android apps, and acts appropriately on a smaller screen, there really is no reason to use Android on phones any more. One of the reasons Microsoft’s Windows phones failed was that there were insufficient apps available. A Windows 11 phone can run all the Android apps that are not available in the Microsoft Store. But as people buy Windows phones, again, they are building that demand for software in the Microsoft Store.
At the moment, app designers write software for Android, Apple, Windows, and if they are really keen, the Microsoft Store. The Microsoft Store really should be the place where all applications are installed from, in an ideal (for Microsoft) future, but at the moment few developers have the time or the inclination to develop apps for a store that is not available on mobile devices.
But if phones running Windows can run Android apps, then they might start to gain market share. And at some point, people might decide there is a large enough market for Windows apps and maybe not a large enough market for Android apps. Writing it once for Windows would make it available on all of a person’s devices. And apps running on PCs as well as phones, whether Android or Microsoft Store apps, will change the way people use their devices.