I recently tested a prototype of a Xamarin Android app that should run on Android 4.1+. So I fired up Visual Studio Emulator for Android and saw that API level 16 (4.1) is missing from the list. The oldest is level 17/4.2.
Since they have a nice smiley icon for feedback I wrote a quick request to include level 16 as well since a lot of apps are targeting 4.1+, not just me.
The shocker came few seconds later in a form of an automated e-mail response (emphasis mine):
Hello,Wait, what? First time I heard that VSE4A is no more. Which wouldn't be that tragic if Hyper-V wasn't involved. See, VSE4A is the only Android emulator based on Hyper-V. Why do I even care? Oh, I do and you should do as well. When Hyper-V is enabled it doesn't allow any other virtualization host to run. Sure, you can disable Hyper-V (reboot required) and go with Google's Emulator or a better one from Genymotion. But then you can't run Docker, Windows Emulator and your other Hyper-V guests at the same time. More here.
This is an automated message. Unfortunately, we have no plans to publish Android images past 4.4. We recommend that you try Google or GenyMotion’s emulator for future images of the Android operating system.
When we first released the Visual Studio Android emulator, the Google emulator was slow, out-of-date, and a significant source of pain for mobile developers. In addition to the great work performed by GenyMotion, the Visual Studio Android Emulator proved that emulators can be fast, productive tools for mobile development.
Since then, Google has responded to developer feedback by increasing their investment in their tools. The next generation Google Android Emulator has closed the feature gap that previously differentiated Visual Studio’s emulator. Google’s emulator has become much faster and more feature rich.
We also know that, for mobile developers, authenticity is key. We believe that Google, as the platform owner, is best positioned to provide ongoing support for new versions of the platform in a way that accurately and authentically reflects the real-world behavior on devices.
For developers like you who’ve come to love and depend on the VS Android Emulator, thank you! We will continue to support in-market platform images according to Visual Studio’s generous support policy. However, Microsoft will no longer produce new Android images for the VS Android Emulator. We consider this a successful project that has come to a natural conclusion.
Happy coding, indeed.
There is light of hope though. Miguel tweeted that there might be a solution in the future
Hopefully that's the case. In the meantime VSE4A still works and is available for download, it is just missing images, specially newer ones (latest is API level 23 aka 6.0).
But at the end I'd really like Microsoft to address the cause of this blunder: the monopolistic Hyper-V behavior on desktop. If Windows virtualization worked like others do ("live and let live") there won't be a problem whatsoever. The way it works now it makes sense on servers, not on desktops.
But instead of fixing that, Microsoft choose to create all imaginable emulators on top of Hyper-V. What could go wrong?