I've got a little Asus netbook, and while it's a fine netbook, it's never really been quite the device I thought it would be. The screen is too small to properly run most Windows apps, websites are often pretty cluttered and ugly on it, and it doesn't run mobile apps. I don't want to install Android, because that doesn't really run well on netbooks. Wouldn't it be nifty if I could use it to run Android apps while still keeping Windows on it? It turns out BlueStacks is a product designed to do exactly that.
I spoke wth John Garguilo, VP of Marketing for BlueStacks to find out more about this exciting new product. The beta officially opened for public download on October 11, 2011. It's still a work in progress, but you can try the product out for yourself to see how it works.
BlueStacks offers what they call an "app player" for Windows 7. What this basically means is that they have a cloud-syncing virtual machine that will play Android apps in full-screen glory on a Windows computer. This means you could play full-screen games like Fruit Ninja, use news readers like Pulse, and take advantage of easier to use mobile interfaces for apps like Evernote. You could breath new life into a Windows 7 tablet, laptop, or netbook.
There are some caveats. You still need a fairly fast processor. Mr Garguilo indicated that an Atom processor was probably not adequate for graphics intensive games, and he recommended something more along the i5 line. Considering that many Android phones are now sporting dual processors, this isn't surprising news. If apps need more power to run on Android, they're going to need more power to run in a virtualization program on another platform.
Apps with Mobile Features
I asked what happened to mobile features, such as games that used the accelerometer or multi-touch gestures. He assured me that most apps (he estimated about 85%) don't use those features, and most of them would be unappealing as Windows apps. That seems to be a bit of a dodge, but he's right. Most apps don't actually use multi-touch or other features, so if you find Angry Birds to be appealing on the Web, you shouldn't run into problems. However, I expect some unexpected problems to crop up as the app goes into wider release.
BlueStacks will have a tiered pricing system. You can use the free version with a limited number of apps or the premium (pricing to be decided) app with the more popular titles. Initially BlueStacks will include ten popular apps in a featured channel, and you'll need to sync other apps yourself using a part of BlueStacks called Cloud Connect. However, your choices may become limited once they work out a pricing model, so sync while you can.
Mac and Other Platforms
I didn't hear any promises about delivering BlueStacks on the Mac, but I did hear that it wasn't a technical difficulty, should they choose to go in that direction. Take from that what you will. They're probably wise to focus on Windows with the beta release, and they had absolutely no statement about their plans with Windows 8, which Microsoft is hoping will breath new life into Windows-based tablets without the Android apps.
Although this wasn't a direction they were pushing, BlueStacks could work out to be a regular part of any Android Developer's toolbox. The Android emulator Google developed is pretty lousy. This is something even Google acknowledged, so if BlueStacks turns out to be a better emulator, the BlueStacks team should be expecting hugs and kisses from Android developers everywhere.