BlueStacks marries Android to Windows

BlueStacks is a unique piece of software that lets you run a full version of Android on a Windows 7 computers. More than a standard dual-boot setup, you can switch between the two on the fly.

If you're struggling to decide between Android or Windows, BlueStacks has a solution for you: choose both. The unique piece of software ties a matrimonial knot between a full version of Android and your Windows machine, allowing you to jump at will between the two operating systems. The marriage is so smooth, in fact, you can create Android app shortcuts on your Windows desktop.

In a conversation today at CNET's San Francisco offices, BlueStacks Senior Vice President Apu Kumar said that BlueStacks is a response to what his company perceives as two complementary needs: the consumers' desire to have their apps available everywhere, and the desire for a unified device.

BlueStack Systems Inc., which is based in Silicon Valley, has created a software tunnel that allows bidirectional communication between the Android side and the Windows side. This means that it can use Windows print drivers to print while in the Android interface, and create shortcuts for Android apps on the Windows desktop.

BlueStacks supports over-the-air updating, too, so the company can push out Android updates to its users automatically. Kumar said that he expected to get updates to users faster than the phone companies have been.

It hasn't been an entirely smooth ride for the company. Besides the "heavy lifting" that Kumar said involved development difficulties of getting the software to work with different screen dimensions, scale correctly, different configurations, and multiple devices, there were other problems. One of the big hangups was caused by Google restricting its marketplace to specific ARM-powered devices. The company got around that problem when opened its Android app marketplace. "Amazon was chosen," Kumar said, "because they have transaction mechanisms, and it's a heavy brand across the world."

The kind of high-powered apps you could run in Android include Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop. (Credit: BlueStack Systems, Inc.)

BlueStacks is hardly vaporware. The company is currently talking with multiple OEM computer and tablet manufacturers, Kumar said, and he added that BlueStacks plans on making a release announcement at CompuTex in Taipei later this month. Because of the manufacturer discussions, Kumar was unable to say if, when, or how much BlueStacks would cost to the average consumer.

I'll be writing up a full hands-on experience with BlueStacks as soon as I get a build. After playing with it for a few minutes, though, it was apparent that the integration was seamless. Switching from Windows to Android was an effortless task achieved by double-clicking on the BlueStacks shortcut on the Windows desktop. Kumar mentioned to me that BlueStacks' conversations with hardware manufacturers involves customizing the jump between operating systems. Among the options being explored are a split-screen approach that could involve swiping to go full screen, or a turned-page corner option with one operating system visually hiding beneath the other.

The implications of the integration could be massive. As Android use grows, people will want their Android apps available on their desktops, Kumar said. Developers could benefit from the virtualization program, as well as consumers who are expected to be presented with a greater variety of tablets in the coming months, including Windows 7-powered ones. Even as a novelty, though, the seamless virtualization presents a nifty way to experience Android without giving up the comforts of Windows.

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