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Amazon to support the Android App Bundle format, may be ready in time for Windows 11 launch

Among the major Windows 11 announcements was the new Microsoft Store and its integration of Android apps via the Amazon App Store. Amazon has published a post detailing its plans to support Google’s new mandatory .aab (Android App Bundle) format for Android apps in the Amazon App Store both on Amazon’s devices and in the new Microsoft Store.

In Amazon’s post, the company published six FAQs to inform about its plans:

1. Will Android App Bundles be mandated for Amazon Appstore?
App Bundles will be completely optional, and developers will be able to continue submitting apps using existing APK format.

2. Will there be any changes to the way developers submit apps?
There are no changes to the app submission process. For both app formats (APK or bundle), developers will continue to submit apps in the same way as before.

3. Will I need to resubmit my app if it was published using APK?
No, you will not need to resubmit your app if it was submitted and published in APK format earlier. You can continue publishing new apps and updates to existing apps using APK format. In order to utilize app bundles, developers would need to plan future submissions using the bundles format (*.aab), however, there will be no changes in the way developers currently submit apps to Appstore.

5. Will my apps get all available App Bundle benefits when Amazon Appstore starts supporting it?
We will support upload of apps in App Bundle format. We have a roadmap to enable customer experience benefits incrementally over time. We will share our roadmap and more details closer to rollout.

6. Will I need to submit my app signing key to Amazon to submit App Bundles?
No, Amazon Appstore does not require you to share your app signing key to submit App Bundles. You will continue to sign App Bundles similar to the way that you sign APKs and submit today.

Microsoft Store Amazon App Store integration

Microsoft is planning to preview Windows 11 with its new built-in preview of the Microsoft Store next week with a public rollout this fall. The new Microsoft Store features new policy changes enabling developers to submit unpacked Win32 apps like .exe and .msi apps. Developers can now use their own content delivery networks for app hosting and updates, no not all updates will come through the Microsoft Store. Developers can also use third-party commerce platforms and Microsoft won’t require a cut of the profits. This has resulted in Adobe bringing their entire Creative Cloud suite of apps to the new Microsoft Store. Microsoft is finally bringing their own apps like Teams, Office, Edge and Visual Studio to the new Microsoft Store as a result of these new policy changes.

Something that was rumored for the Store but now is an announced reality is the addition of Android apps to the Microsoft Store from Amazon’s library of apps. These new Android apps will run in a dedicated container and will run seamlessly like native apps. Windows 11 users will need to sign into their Amazon accounts in order to download the Android apps. Once installed, you will be able to pin them to the Start Menu, the Taskbar and snap them side by side with other app windows.

“Today we offer a broad selection of mobile apps in our Amazon Appstore, available across Fire TV, Fire Tablets, and Android devices that our customers use and enjoy every day,” said Palanidaran Chidambaram, Director of the Amazon Appstore and Cross-Screen Technology. “With this announcement, Amazon Appstore developers will now have the opportunity to make their Android apps available to hundreds of millions of Windows customers.”

The availability of the Amazon Appstore within the Microsoft Store on Windows 11 will enable developers to easily expand their app’s reach to billions of Windows devices. Microsoft will ship the new Microsoft Store with Windows 11 this fall but the company says they plan to enable the new Store for Windows 10 as well.

How is Microsoft enabling Android app support on Windows 11? Microsoft and Intel work together an “Intel Bridge” compiler that enables Android apps to runs on x86 CPUs. Fear not, this support includes AMD CPUs and today Microsoft confirmed that Android app support includes ARM silicon as well, but there are not as many details about how it works yet.

Intel describes its Bridge as a run-time post compiler that translates applications on the fly, similar to Apple’s Rosetta translation software for its Apple Silicon powered Macs. Windows on Arm devices won’t need the additional translation layer which could result in better battery life and better performance when running Android apps on ARM PCs like Surface Pro X.

Android App Bundle background

Google has announced major changes for developers, not at their annual Google I/O but right after Microsoft announced Windows 11 and its support for Android APKs. The timing is peculiar, Google and Microsoft’s agreement to cease hostilities is ending, antitrust scrutiny is extremely high and like I mentioned above, Microsoft just announced Windows 11 with Android APK app support through Amazon’s app store.

Since Android launched Android apps were packaged in the .apk format, but come August Google will require that apps published in Play Store need to be published in the .aab format. Google also says that since the .aab format launched in “May 2018 we’ve seen our developer community embrace this new standard to benefit from streamlined releases and advanced distribution features. There are now over 1 million apps using app bundles in production, including the majority of the top 1,000 apps and games on Google Play such as Adobe, Duolingo, Gameloft, Netflix, redBus, Riafy, and Twitter.”

Google is touting potential benefits with the .aab format like small app downloads and more:

  • Android App Bundle: Google Play uses the app bundle to generate and optimize APKs for distribution for different device configurations and languages. This makes your app smaller (on average, 15% smaller than a universal APK) and faster to download, which can lead to more installs and fewer uninstalls.
  • Play App Signing: Play App Signing, which is required for app bundles, protects your app signing key from loss by using Google’s secure infrastructure and offers the option of upgrading to a new, cryptographically stronger app signing key.
  • Play Feature Delivery: Used by more than 10% of the top apps using app bundles, Play Feature Delivery gives you the ability to customize what feature modules are delivered to which device and when, with install-time, conditional, and on-demand delivery modes.
  • Play Asset Delivery: Reduces user waiting time by dynamically delivering large assets while cutting delivery costs. Games using Play Asset Delivery can use texture compression format targeting, so your users only get the assets suitable for their device, with no wasted space or bandwidth.
  • Future improvements: Soon, Play App Signing will start rolling out APK Signature Scheme v4 to select apps making it possible for them to optionally access upcoming performance features available on newer devices. Tune into the Google for Games Developer Summit on July 12 to find out more.

Google does point out that existing apps are “currently exempt” from the Android App Bundle requirement coming in August. on a technical level, it makes sense to publish the app as a bundle and only have to install the part of the app you need for your device and not everyone else’s. The shitty part is that it is not an open standard and seem to preference its own store in an apparent attempt to have developers skip publishing to Amazon or Samsung’s app stores who currently support APKs. Developers who move to AAB can no longer distribute the same app to other app stores and Google will likely cite security in order to restrict the freedom of customers to choose alternative app stores. It always comes down to that doesn’t it, weather it is Apple touting security and restricting your economic freedom to choose apps outside their store or the government subjecting you to increased security at airports, the choice is the same, no choice at all.

A former industry insider and tech industry enthusiast.

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