Run Android apps on Windows with BlueStacks

Run Android apps on Windows with BlueStacks

Summary: Want to run your favorite Android applications on your Windows desktop? BlueStacks has an app for that.

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TOPICS: Android
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Want to run Android apps on Windows? BlueStacks has an app for that.

Want to run Android apps on Windows? BlueStacks has an app for that.

So you love Draw Something, Air Attack HD, or some other Android application? If you wanted to run that or any other Android app on your Windows PC, you were out of luck – until recently. BlueStacks now makes it possible to run Android applications on Windows systems.

While still in beta, the BlueStacks App Player delivers the goods. I've only tinkered with it myself, but everyone I know who uses it a lot think it's great.

It's not just we techies who like BlueStacks. What's more telling is that PC-giant ASUS has signed a deal with BlueStacks to include its Android app player on the company's next generation PCs, including the models running Windows 8,

Since Microsoft plans to make it difficult to dual-boot or root any other operating system on Windows 8 systems and to make it impossible to add or switch operating systems on Windows RT (Windows 8 on ARM) tablets and phones, BlueStacks likely will be the only way to run Android applications on Windows 8 PCs, tablets, and smartphones.

BlueStacks does this not by using a virtual machine (VM) as such but by running an emulation of the Android Davlik (also a VM) on top of Windows. While BlueStacks plans to patent some of the technology in its Android emulator, LayerCake, the technique dates back for decades.

The most well-known modern emulator is Wine. This popular open-source program, along with its commercial brother, CrossOver, enables Linux, Mac OS X, and other Unix users to run Windows applications. It does this by bridging the gap between the Windows program's application programming interface (API) calls and the underlying operating system.

Like Wine, BlueStacks doesn't emulate the actual hardware of a device. Instead, it emulates just enough of Android Davlik to server as a bridge between the application and Windows' APIs. Besides leveraging the Windows device's processor, be it x86 or ARM, BlueStacks can access the system's graphics hardware to accelerate the program's graphics processing. LayerCake also duplicates Android device's accelerometer tilting in applications and games that utilize it with the mouse or arrow keys. Pinch-to-zoom is also supported on mouse trackpads.

BlueStacks also has a related application, Cloud Connect, which lets you sync Android apps from your phone or tablet to a PC running BlueStacks App Player.

While this sounds pretty spiffy—and indeed it is—I have to add that it raises security concerns. True, BlueStacks has its own App Store, but we all know that people find a way to install other applications. Indeed, Cloud Connect, while very useful, is also an easy road for malware. And, in case you haven't been paying attention, there's a lot of Android malware on the loose.

Still, if you're careful with your Android downloads and you really like the idea of having your favorite Android apps on a Windows PC, BlueStacks can't be beat. The company also plans to bring its technology to Mac OS X as well, though I wouldn't count on seeing that anytime soon. BlueStacks will have its hands full getting ready for the launch of Windows 8.

Related Stories:

ASUS to preinstall BlueStacks on PCs: Android on Windows

CNET: Latest BlueStacks ARMs your PC

CNET: BlueStacks goes Metro with Windows 8

BlueStacks Android Player for Windows Alpha (review)

Topic: Android

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16 comments
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  • Eh...

    I've been running Blue Stacks for a few months. I installed it on a laptop running Windows 8. I thought it would be great because of all the things that you mentioned. Turns out, it wasn't so great. I mean it works. The problems are that when running the apps next to real programs or even the apps in the Windows 8 marketplace, the Android apps seem woefully inadequate.
    retnep
  • Why is a more secure computing environment

    something you don't wish to see?

    [i]Since Microsoft plans to make it difficult to dual-boot or root any other operating system on Windows 8 systems and to make it impossible to add or switch operating systems on Windows RT (Windows 8 on ARM) tablets and phones[/i]

    You bring that up all the time, and here I thought it was put to bed. Just don't purchase that tablet. I don't think the vast majority of people should have to suffer a less secure computing experience because a handful of people want to put something else on the tablet.

    Just go out and get the Linux version, or something else. Get an iPad, and root that.
    William Farrel
    • Vendor control!=security

      MS' efforts in that area are *not* motivated by greater security for users, but greater security of their revenue streams.

      But yes, users unhappy with MS and Windows should bite the bullet and abandon the platform, even if it means they need to find replacements for their favorite Windows applications.
      John L. Ries
    • Greater security, no. Greater 3rd party control, yes.

      You don't seem to notice the difference. It's unlikely you are even capable of noticing.
      ego.sum.stig
    • maybe not

      Your idea is all well and good, but if MS were to get their way, you won't be able to ***FIND*** anything not running Windows. Look at the Netbook market; MS strongarmed the OEMs into bundling Windows instead of Linux, and suddenly those Linux-equipped models were so "conveniently" missing from the marketplace.
      jelabarre
    • That would be great

      ..if you could actually buy something without the Microsoft tax, or the Apple overpriced hardware. Then you could have a more secure computing experience.
      james.vandamme
    • Put to bed?

      >and here I thought it was put to bed.

      Sorry; it's still the user-unfriendly action it always was. You spread a lie about this issue when you kept repeating that Chromebooks locked the bootloader (which became so popular it spread to other websites). Chromebooks offer a physical switch on the bottom to disable the bootloader protection and allow users to replace the OS. You'd apparently never seen a Chromebook before making this statement.

      > Just don't purchase that tablet.

      I'll try to put this to bed myself one more time. ARM laptops don't exist. With the advent of Windows RT ARM laptops will exist (Qualcomm is working on models for two vendors now). With the lock-in, that's the first time in history a computing platform will have been introduced where Windows is physically locked into the machine.

      >I don't think the vast majority of people should have to suffer a less
      >secure computing experience

      This has nothing to do with security; On the desktop I can pay $99 to Verisign just like Fedora is doing and get my code signed with the Microsoft key. Then, until MS issues a patch to revoke my key, I could execute MS-signed malware on someone's machine.

      >because a handful of people want to put something else on the tablet.

      You don't feel you should be in control of your own hardware? Or do you feel that free speech should be limited only to things that are popular? A small number of people are in wheelchairs but we don't whine about spending extra money to put a ramp onto a building for a handful of people. We recognize that the harm caused to that handful of people far outweighs the minor inconvenience to the majority. Allowing users to replace the operating system does not inconvenience you, but preventing users from replacing the operating system causes great obstacles to others. By simple ethics, it's clear which course of action is preferable.

      >Just go out and get the Linux version,

      You might not have noticed, but most devices don't come preinstalled with Linux. Of course, a Linux version of an ARM laptop would be significantly better than a Windows RT laptop because the full Linux OS has been ported to ARM, allowing users to run the same software on an x86 desktop and an ARM laptop, with the same (choice of) interfaces, including the option to switch between touch-oriented and standard UIs. Unfortunately, if MS' lock-in is allowed to take place, the market will be denied a superior solution, which is a loss for consumers.

      >or something else. Get an iPad, and root that.

      You don't get to erect your own walled garden and tell people they can't come in.
      jgm@...
      • Put to bed - Socialism?

        Now, now jgm - I do hope that you aren't in the good old US of Ayyyy!

        You talking about losing personal benefit - for the benefit of others in the minority smacks of 'socialism', which in America is simply translated to the big 'C' word lol.

        Be wary of loud knocks at your door at 3 am with helicopter spotlights and SWAT vans surrounding your town (not just your house).

        As the population of the good old US of Ayyy obviously detests social responsibility (like an health service that helps all - rather than just those with money) - you're really sticking your neck out condoning that the wheel-chair bound be paid-for by the able-bodied.

        Of course, if you aren't from the US, then you're probably still at-risk of 'heroes' in body-armour, because an hacker with a mental problem in Britain (was it Bolton?) had FBI agents crawling all over his house (roflmao).

        jgm - DO NOT LOOK BEHIND YOU - RAISE YOUR HANDS WHERE THEY CAN BE SEEN - STEP AWAY FROM YOUR HTC ONE X AND DO NOT - I REPEAT - DO NOT UTTER A VOICE COMMAND TO IT - WE ARE ARMED AND CAPABLE OF DEADLY FORCE AND ARE QUITE PREPARED TO OBLITERATE YOUR ANDROID DEVICE (in favour of US-Based Apple products).

        ; - )
        RedSlayer
    • Security

      Hmmm - so Linux or Apple devices are more secure?
      And why do you think that? Simply because they get less security 'hits'?
      Drive your car for 24 / 7 for one day of the year, then 24/7 for 365 days per year - I'll put money on you having more accidents doing the latter.

      Linux / Apple have what - 5% of the market compared with Microsoft - so guess which get's most security breaches / 'hits'?

      Anyone can ensure maximum security - by simply controlling it's customers' access rights.
      I can ensure 100% security - I'll sell you a PC without a network card - will you then view me as a security guru?

      I don't want a typically more 'secure' software experience - if that means being told that I can't install what I want, from where I want and when I want.

      Apple security is security by obscurity - (and it still fails), and when it fails (and it does) - it blames it's customers!

      I'm not going to refute that Apple products are 'better' quality, but at the price of restriction and value-for-money - naah - not good enough.
      RedSlayer
  • Still needs work, interesting idea

    Have been using Bluestacks for several months. I am impressed with compatibility. User interface needs work. I can't seem to update the apps. Of course, certain apps don't work because of no accelerometer. Moving from touch screen to mouse use can be tricky. Problem is that Windows on x86 really doesn't need this. If this was for Win RT, it would be VERY interesting and bridge the gap while more developers write apps for Metro.
    mstrsfty
  • Hopefully it is not a native app and therefore cant allow the android

    malware to do the nasty and costly things it does on android, at least on WP and WRT. If not then I'll have to make sure I can completely uninstall it on any tablet before I decide to purchase it.
    Johnny Vegas
  • From the article: The most well-known modern emulator is Wine

    Truly? I would think that [u]Cygwin[/u] would be more widely known than Wine given that Windows has 85-90% of the desktop market share, while desktop Linux has approx. 1.5%.

    That said, BlueStacks does sound like it might be of some interest for Windows 8-based tablets. I know it's a bit different, but it reminds me of RIMs Android App Player. Both try to make up for a weak platform ecosystem (read native apps).
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • are you awake

    it has been out for months.not news
    sarai1313@...
  • Just makes Windows a stronger competitor

    Since it all comes down to the applications, and Windows has the apps, allowing Android Apps to run on Windows seems to give people even less reason to run Linux on the desktop.

    Tell me, is there an Android emulator for Linux? Interesting if not.
    Cynical99
    • RE: Windows has the apps

      This is very true on the desktop. Are you sure that its true for Windows 8-based tablets, both Intel- and ARM-based?

      I would be curious to know where all the Windows desktop ISVs stand with regard to modifying their applications to support multi-touch and ARM on Microsoft's forthcoming tablets. Even Microsoft admits that Office 15 (with support for multi-touch) won't be RTM'd until some time in early 2013.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Just makes Windows a stronger competitor

      Bluestacks allows Android apps on Apple - so Linux? Erm - probably.

      I just lurv the open source ideology; don't you?

      [Apple fanboy]: "No - I need to be guided, controlled, instructed - by someone, anyone; 'pleeeeeez tell me what to do!!!"
      RedSlayer