Mobile apps for many, have become the centerpiece of their computer usage. The shift from desktop to mobile is becoming more and more evident extremely rapidly, and BlueStacks is a new virtualization application that aims to bridge that gap ever so slightly.
This is a completely new concept where you can install and use Android apps on your Windows PC. You can check out popular games, work with productivity apps and check for news updates using your favorite Android apps, right from the desktop. And thanks to Cloud Connect, one can share the apps between platforms.
For people who don’t have an Android device, this is an opportunity to try out how well the Android apps work.
What Is the BlueStacks App Player?
The type of software that allows the running of non-native apps has typically gone under various names: virtualization, emulation etc, and that’s essentially what this is. But instead of the typical virtualization software that allows you to run an OS within a virtual environment, BlueStacks will merely sit on your Windows desktop providing a layer for you to run Android apps on your Windows desktop, and remain mostly invisible but for a small widget in the top right which holds the key to all that Google goodness.
How Does it Work?
The program itself is now in Alpha stage, so I was wary of how smooth the application would be in practice. However, I was actually pleasantly surprised. My primary area of concern was with how adept the form factor of a Windows PC would be at handling games, though finding that BlueStacks incorporates full keyboard functionality, rather than relying on using the mouse as a faux-touchscreen came as a great relief.
The implementation of the apps even provides access to the standard context menu you get on all pre-Honeycomb Android devices, so you have full control over preferences and settings.
Not only that, you have a ‘zoom’ function within the apps, which in a similar style to how you’d use iPhone apps on the iPad for those familiar, reduces the application to a more respectable resolution on your display. You will find that running apps designed for maximum 5″ displays running on a 23″ monitor does cause some issues when it comes to picture clarity.
Another interesting little feature is the ‘reverse’ scrolling that any users of the most recent release of Mac OS X will be familiar with. That is that scrolling down on a trackpad will move the content in the apparently opposite direction, as it would on a tablet.
With regards to installing new apps, you can easily access a sort of BlueStacks marketplace by connecting with Facebook via a link to ‘get more apps’ from within the app drawer which is pictured below.
Why Is It Useful?
There is, of course, the obvious benefit of actually being able to run more apps than you otherwise would on your Windows-based PC, but more specifically than that, it might even affect the decisions of developers when it comes to making a Windows app to accompany the mobile app in some sort of synchronisation should this become popular right across the board for Windows users. Of course, it would take global adoption for it to bear any weight in a decision like that, and it would probably take a somewhat lazy developer to decide that the quality of a virtualised mobile app on a desktop in a non-native environment is sufficient to satisfy the paying customer.
However, from the users’ standpoint, it might make sense to use this application if you have no other way of keeping certain applications data in sync with your PC, for apps that you might not want to fork out twice for if you won’t use it religiously on the desktop, only the mobile.
Obviously being in Alpha stage, there’s still a great deal more development needed before it becomes the finished product, but it’s a promising start. What’s interesting to see, is that in the introduction video embedded above, there’s more than a hint of Metro UI. Could we soon see Android apps running almost flawlessly on Windows 8 tablets? Surely a killer blow for the former, which are already struggling to gain a foothold in the coveted tablet market. Having said that, it’s something to ponder whether access to these apps might eventually become restricted by Google or developers.
Also, though it’s not available at this point, there is going to be a ‘pro’ option which will allow the installation of an unlimited number of Android apps within BlueStacks, as well as running ‘premium’ apps, by which they evidently just mean popular, such as Angry Birds of Fruit Ninja.
And the last noteworthy point of interest is the fact that there’s a label underneath the ‘download now’ button on the official website saying ‘notify me when the Mac version is available’, providing an obvious insight into the direction for the application in the future.
There’s certainly a great deal of scope and scalability for a product such as this, and I can see an immense amount of consumer interest based on the relatively low levels of drain on system resources and the extensive app availability, including thousands upon thousands of free, yet extremely useful, applications for the Android platform.
As I mentioned before it could potentially have a disastrous impact on the interest in Android tablets should it becomes public knowledge that you can do almost everything on a Windows tablet that a hypothetical Android equivalent might have to offer, so I think the level of publicity that this product gets is of utmost importance not just for the developers themselves and their aspirations, but potentially a wider impact on the market as a whole.