A startup called BlueStacks has developed an Android runtime environment for the Windows operating system. It will enable users to run Android applications alongside conventional Windows software on Microsoft's operating system. The technology impressed some major investors who have supplied $7.6 million in Series A funding so that BlueStacks can turn its software into a business.
As most Android application developers know, running Android software on a Windows PC has historically involved emulation—which impairs performance and adds considerably to resource overhead. BlueStacks has overcome the performance barrier by building a native x86 Android runtime that doesn't have to rely on emulation. The company says that Android applications running on its stack will be highly responsive on Windows and won't suffer from the kind of lag that developers are accustomed to experiencing when using Google's emulator.
As some readers might remember, Canonical briefly explored some similar concepts in 2009 but was never able to offer production-quality support for Android software on Ubuntu. The Android userspace stack is somewhat insular and not particularly conducive to application portability. BlueStacks managed to overcome the obstacles with its own solution.
The BlueStacks runtime got its first public demonstration this week at the Citrix Synergy conference. BlueStacks has made it possible for companies to deliver Android applications through the Citrix Receiver. The partnership with Citrix represents one of many ways in which the BlueStacks runtime can be put to practical use.
To learn more about the underlying technology and the company's business aspirations, I spoke over the phone with BlueStacks CEO Rosen Sharma. He told me that the BlueStacks developers have worked to create a really seamless experience for running Android applications on Windows. It offers tight integration with the underlying platform—including mechanisms that bridge the file systems, networking configuration, and notifications.
The BlueStacks runtime makes it possible for Android programs to run in individual windows and be launched from shortcuts like any other standalone Windows application. It also optionally offers the ability to run a complete Android user experience on Windows, including the launcher and other elements. Third-party applications that are built against the standard Android APIs don't have to be recompiled in order to work with the BlueStacks runtime. Users can even install conventional Android software from Amazon's Android Appstore and run it on Windows.
Sharma says that BlueStacks is establishing relationships with hardware manufacturers that are interested in shipping the x86 Android runtime on consumer devices. He envisions mobile products that can offer the best of both Android and Windows. One example would be a convertible netbook tablet that normally runs Windows but switches to an Android interface for greater touch-friendliness when the screen is flipped.
Such a product would offer the full power and multitasking capabilities of Windows but also benefit from having access to Android's broad touch-enabled software ecosystem. During my discussion with Sharma, he pointed out the dominance of the iPad and the difficulty that hardware manufacturers are facing as they try to compete. He said that BlueStacks could give them a way to add value to their products and make them more competitive.
The company will announce its first hardware partners and OEM customers within the next few weeks and could potentially have some demos to show on prototype hardware at the upcoming Computex event. BlueStacks also intends to offer a downloadable version of its runtime for regular end users. An alpha release of the downloadable runtime could arrive as early as June or July.