At first blush running Android apps on Windows PCs might not seem like a good idea, but given the number of apps in the Android Market it's worth giving a try. The Bluestacks Android App Player was released today in an early alpha version, and I have been using it all day.
While the ability to run most Android apps on a Windows system is nice, the real story is the Cloud Connect app for Android devices which lets you shoot apps from the phone or tablet to the Windows PC. It is worth noting that using Bluestacks requires having a physical Android device for getting apps. You cannot simply use Bluestacks as the sole Android "device".
Installing the Bluestacks Player is a simple process, as long as you have a PC with current hardware. I tried loading it on an older notebook and the installation would not complete. Once I grabbed a ThinkPad X1 with a Core i5 processor the installation ran with no problems.
The first thing you notice after installation is a Bluestacks Windows gadget (image above) that is installed on the desktop. This is the only way to run Android apps, so it's important to leave it on the desktop. Clicking this icon slides a window open with a few Android apps and games that are run by clicking one.
The Android apps run only in full screen, which is disappointing as running windowed makes more sense on a large screen like a laptop. The apps display flawlessly on the PC, and the mouse and keyboard make working on the PC quite good, even though Android apps are designed to be run by touch.
Most apps I tried worked fine, with a few exceptions. Some games indicate they will only run on a Pro version of Bluestacks that is scheduled for the future. Other apps just never started properly, including Pocket Informant which I had great hopes for.
Bluestacks includes an icon in the gadget for Get More Apps, and when clicked it opens the Windows default web browser to access the Cloud Connect web site. Getting more apps requires allowing Bluestacks to access the user's Facebook account, something some will find troublesome.
Once authenticated there are apps that can be shot OTA to the Windows PC for use in Bluestacks. Most of the apps presented online are games or news apps.
The real story is the Cloud Connect app in the Android Market, that makes it a simple process to send any installed Android app on the phone or tablet to Bluestacks on the PC. I tested this on both my Nexus S 4G phone and the Galaxy Tab tablet. Running the Cloud Connect app results in a list of installed apps, any of which can be clicked to sync to the PC.
It can take a few minutes after syncing for the apps to start appearing on the PC, so patience is required. A popup appears on the PC when each app is installed and ready to be used. Apps shot to the player appear in the app window in the Bluestacks gadget on the PC desktop.
Both the Bluestacks Player and Cloud Connect are in alpha, so there may be some bumps in the road while using it. Both have been pretty stable in the few hours I have been using them today, so it's a pretty decent start.
I have to admit that it is pretty nice to see my favorite Android app, Plume, running in multiple columns on the big PC screen. It's more useful than I though it might be. I do wish the onscreen keyboard wouldn't take up screen real estate on the PC given the physical keyboard.