There’s a lot of love for the Android operating system that runs more than half the smartphones out there, as well as a smaller percentage of tablets, but Android apps run only within the Android operating system; while this is fine if you’re working with a common file format that you’re just passing through an Android app, but what if you want to run the app itself?
That’s where Bluestacks comes in; it’s an emulation software (http://www.bluestacks.com/) for Windows 7, Mac OS X and Windows 8, with the latter being particularly interesting. Microsoft’s latest operating system is optimised for touch, and the range of touch-enabled apps is improving day by day. Still, it’s got its work cut out against the established Apple and Android app stores in terms of the sheer number and breadth of app offerings. Bluestacks makes it feasible to run Android apps on Windows 8 PCs, although it’s worth noting that if you own a Surface RT, that won’t run Bluestacks at all. As we’ve noted previously, the Surface RT runs an operating system that looks like Windows 8, but it isn’t. It’s instead an ARM-optimised look-a-like, but the apps that’ll run on a regular Windows PC won’t run there. They will run on the Surface Pro, but Microsoft hasn’t yet committed to a timeline of when that tablet will actually legitimately be on sale in Australia.
The Bluestacks app is a fairly simple install on pretty much any PC, although obviously you’ll get the most out of it on a touchscreen enabled device. You can run it from a mouse and keyboard combination, but the display layout will still think you’ve got a touchscreen and pop up a keyboard even when you’re merrily typing away. I’ve been testing it for a little while on both a full non-touchscreen desktop PC and an Asus VivoTab 810 with an integrated touchscreen. The desktop is far more powerful than the VivoTab 810, but the touch experience is what Android is built for.
It’s possible to link your existing Google account to your Bluestacks installation, giving you access to your paid apps as well, although depending on how Bluestacks detects the abilities of your host PC, not every app will in fact run. That’s mitigated somewhat by the fact that Bluestacks is still in Beta, and as such you won’t pay a cent for it. Also, before anyone asks, yes, you can indeed play Angry Birds on it.