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BlueStacks Brings Android Apps To Windows

  • Bluestacks is a virtualization layer that runs on Windows PCs and allows users to run Android apps. Rather than run a full Android emulator, including the UI, Bluestacks provides enough of the Android OS to run most apps as if they were native Windows apps.

    Bluestacks is in alpha, meaning that there are bugs and performance issues. For example, the UI seems laggy at times, and the default full-screen window is not particularly user-friendly. With that said, it does work remarkably well. I only ran into a couple of apps that wouldn't run because they require an ARM processor on their package. Otherwise, I ran free and purchased apps.

    Be aware that installing Bluestacks can be difficult. You may need to disable UAC and anti-virus. It may take a few tries to get going. It's alpha--they are working on it.

    A few things didn't work, such as screen rotation, and the sound was scratchy, but it is still pretty remarkable.

    It will only run in full-screen mode at this time. Bluestacks really does need to make this windowed, as full-screen desktop widgets are non-starters. But it's alpha, and the suggestion--from others, not me--is under consideration by the company.

    If you want to run Android apps--and, truth be told, I don't have a compelling reason yet to do so--Bluestacks is a much better option than running an emulator or Android-x86 in VMware Workstation. Be sure to search for answers to problems on the community support site. More experienced users and Bluestacks staff are quite helpful.

  • There are a few ways to get apps onto Bluestacks. Cloud Connect is the easiest, once it is working. You download the Cloud Connect client from the Android Market and share apps from within it. The app will transfer the packages to your account (you must have a Facebook account to use Cloud Connect, blech), and then the desktop app will download and install them locally. It's just the installer, not the app+data. Remember to grab any key files you need as well.

    I had to reboot my computer before the Cloud Connect client would actually download the software. Again, it's alpha software. They are working on it. Alternatively, you can make a shortcut and manually load applications directly into the desktop app. This is what I did (for the most part). It was much faster.

    Uninstalling apps depends on how they are installed. If you used Cloud Connect, you can just unsubscribe from the Web UI. If you loaded them manually, you can use this trick of installing ADW launcher and uninstalling like normal.

  • First, I wanted to see what Bluestacks looked like. Under the hood is a handy utility for seeing, well, what's under the hood of your Android device. It's running a Linux kernel and shows up as BlueStacks Virtual device. You can see some of the loadable modules running. Other tabs list processes and networking.

  • I could enjoy full networking. I downloaded Amazon's Kindle app, authenticated into Amazon, and my bookshelf was ready to read. I could also shop for new books. Yes, I could do this faster in my browser locally, but this is cool.

  • Docs to Go worked well. I opened a few local files to try out typing, and I was able to grab Google Documents. The screen shot shows that it is unlicensed, but all I had to do was launch the Docs to Go license file and I was good to go. I don't recall if I had to do that on my Android phone.

  • Dropbox is available if I need to grab files to Bluestacks. I open the Documents folder and open a few documents. Bluestacks selected Word to Go automatically, and I was editing. There is a softkeyboard, but you can use your own physical keyboard just as well.

  • If you use Microsoft Exchange, then NitroDesk Touchdown is a must-have, and it works swimmingly in Bluestacks. Once I completed the installation, I set up my connection and email, calendar, tasks and contacts were synchronized. Like Docs to Go, I had to launch the license file before it saw the license (I took the screen shot before that). Did I mention that apps are blazingly fast?

  • Twitter worked well, too. When I am not traveling, Twitter is probably where I spend most of my time, so Seesmic is my go-to app.

  • Why, yes, I am running AndroidVNC within BlueStacks to connect to my Windows Server 2008 virtual machine. Why? The question is why not? I could do this all day.