Your Windows 8 PC will be capable of running Android applications too, if BlueStacks has its way. The company demonstrated its eponymous Player software at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), showing how it can make the guest apps available directly via Microsoft's "Metro" interface.We've written several times about the BlueStacks App Player. Released in an alpha version for Windows 7 back in October, and updated to support Windows XP in November, this is software that allows Windows users to run Android applications.
The Windows 7 version, shown in the first screen below, was designed to give users "one-click access to their favorite Android apps right on their Windows 7 PCs," via a gadget that may be clicked on to view a list of installed software (fist screen below). The XP version (second screen below) simply offers a desktop icon which, when clicked upon, invokes a Bluestacks environment that takes over the screen and then allows apps to be loaded.
The BlueStacks App Player for Windows 7
The BlueStacks App Player for Windows XP
BlueStacks announced Jan 10 that the App Player will work with Windows 8 too, integrating Android apps onto the operating system's Metro-style start screen (below). A final version of the software will be available when Windows 8 ships, and it will also be bundled on new PCs and Ultrabooks from the Taiwanese vendor InHon, the company added.
BlueStacks puts Android applications on the Windows 8 Start screen
CNet's Seth Rosenblatt writes that in his brief hands-on testing, the Windows 8 version worked as smoothly as the Windows 7 version had: "Apps downloaded from the Amazon Marketplace, which BlueStacks uses as its Android market, instantly had tiles created on the Metro side of Windows 8. Apps opened with little delay, and navigating through the news aggregation app Pulse and playing the several games I used was equally problem-free."
According to BlueStacks, its free software allows users to run ten pre-loaded apps, and install up to 26 more via a "BlueStacks Channels" page. Though the company's software is apparently Android 2.3-based, it is not compatible with Google's Android Market, and there appear to be limitations on what apps will run: For example, "premium apps" such as Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and Cut The Rope will not work.
BlueStacks says these premium apps will be supported by an upcoming, pay-for version of its software called App Player Pro. Meanwhile, the company adds, users can send apps from their Android phones to the App Player environment using its cloud-based Cloud Connect service.
In order to set up Cloud Connect, users install and run the BlueStacks Cloud Connect app on their phones, entering a unique nine-digit PIN that they previously obtained via their PCs. At that point, it's possible to choose which apps should be pushed to the desktop device.
Privately held BlueStacks "emerged from stealth mode" in May 2011, announcing that it had received $7.6 million in funding from five venture capital firms. The company is led by CEO Rosen Sharma, described as "a serial entrepreneur and most recently SVP and CTO of Innovation at McAfee."
At the time, the company claimed its "groundbreaking technology will allow users to seamlessly run Android and Windows applications on their x86-based devices." It promised BlueStacks software would soon be bundled by leading manufacturers of Windows tablets, notebooks, and desktops.
Of course, it's already possible to run Android applications on x86 devices, provided that their manufacturers have supplied a port of Google's Linux-plus-Java operating system. But thusly equipped products require users to select either Windows or Android at boot time, making a switch from one environment to another a lengthy process.
According to BlueStacks, its software takes a different tack, using Windows as a host operating system and then providing Android on top of it. From within Windows, users can switch to a full Android desktop, or simply install Android app icons directly on the Windows desktop.
Unlike in a dual-boot configuration, Android apps are available from Windows in under one second, BlueStacks says. Data created in the Windows environment -- pictures, documents, and music files, for example -- will be available to Android apps seamlessly, as are USB peripherals, the company further promises.
"As is the case with any advanced technology, the complexity is completely masked from the end consumer," the company says. But, it explains, BlueStacks actually "employs a lightweight, optimized, soft hypervisor with deep enhancements to support 'embedded virtualization'."
While the first iteration of BlueStacks uses x86 Windows as the host (boot) operating system, it was promised "the BlueStacks virtualization technology can very easily support different permutations and combinations of operating systems and their applications." According to the company, future versions will:
- allow running Android apps on ARM-based Windows 8
- run Android apps in a browser tab on the lightweight Chrome OS
- allow booting into an x86 version of Android "for faster startup and longer battery life," then run Windows applications when required