Robots Take Over Your Desktop: Android OS on MS-Windows
A year and a half ago, Suman Saraf was on a trip to Switzerland, and his young daughter Mahi was bored. He gave her his Android smartphone to play with, as any quick-witted parent would do under the circumstances. When they came home from their trip, Mahi asked to play with the same app on the family PC. She couldn't understand why she couldn't access it on the bigger screen, and Saraf realized he had an idea for a startup. What if you could run all your Android apps on your PC?
The startup is here now, and Saraf is the CTO. Today, BlueStacks is ready to announce that they're here to get the green robot very comfortable with Window. They have received $7.6 million in Series A financing from venture capital firms Ignition Ventures, Radar Partners, Helion Ventures, Redpoint Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. And they have some very interesting ideas beyond playing Android games on your x86-based desktop.
Okay, What Else is This Besides RoboDefense Without the Phone?
It's lots of things beyond running your games on a bigger screen. BlueStacks is working with a number of OEMs on devices that will run both Windows and Android. You've probably already heard about dual-boot devices, but that's not what BlueStacks has in mind. Your Android apps would access your Windows drivers. You could run an Android app in one window and a Windows app in another, then switch between them. Where do the OEMs come in? I spoke with BlueStacks CEO Rosen Sharma (formerly of McAfee) yesterday to learn more about what was behind getting the BugDroid on the desk monitor.
Well, how cool is this? How about a tablet with a slide-out keyboard that enables Windows with the keyboard out, and Android with it in?
BlueStacks Gets Into Hardware
I wish I could tell you who is going to be building something like that, but we're going to have wait until next week for that announcement. BlueStacks will be at Computex in Taipei, and will be making a number of announcements with their four OEM partners there. I figure they mentioned this idea because it's one of many of their new products coming. As to what form factors these new devices will take, it will be netbooks, notebooks, tablets, and even multitouch mousepads as input. Every BlueStacks device will have multitouch, which is one of Android's key strengths, and that means either using the display screen or a multitouch mousepad.
What sorts of chips will these schizoid devices be packing? From Intel Atoms all the way up to i3, i7, and beyond. They'll be running on AMD processors too, such as the E350 or the C50. I am sure they will be going into great detail about the processor platforms next week once Computex gets under way, and we'll be sure to keep you updated, as they have a tablet coming next month. Who knows, it may be this one from Acer! That news story never mentions the disqualifying term "dual-boot" and the device is a Intel Oak Trail design, rather than ARM-based. An article in Wired suggests the Acer tablet might use an Atom Z670 or successor. It goes on to suggest Asus and Lenovo have Intel-based tablets coming soon thereafter. However, only the DigiTimes blurb specifically mentioned the Windows-Android capability.
The whole x86 versus ARM processor debate has been a simple case of battery life. ARM chips were designed for lower power consumption. Intel is finally addressing these concerns with some of its newer processors such as the Oak Trail line.
Tablet Sales Cannibalize PCs, Netbooks and Laptops
Another reason for BlueStacks to integrate Android and Windows is that tablets are eating into sales of conventional computers. If an OEM provided a BlueStacks solution on either a netbook, notebook, or tablet, a user would never need to carry two machines. No matter what the portable form factor, all could access both Windows and Android apps immediately.
This has a further business case as well. If corporate users want Android phones and already have a desktop infrastructure, then they could use their Android apps on their work machines with BlueStacks. Stay tuned for more announcements very, very soon, as BlueStacks has an Enterprise partner who can help deliver this solution in the corporate environment. The advantage will be keeping all those security, VPN, and backup issues covered while adding Android functionality to the corporate desktop.
But I Really Just Wanted to Run Android Apps on my Desktop!
Great, BlueStacks is going to help you do that! Just as you need a Adobe Flash Player to enjoy Flash videos, BlueStacks is going to provide an "Android player" for Windows machines. You would be able to download the player, and through their own virtualization technology, your apps would run "seamlessly" on your Windows computer. BlueStacks is planning for the alpha to be available in late June or July, with the full release scheduled for sometime in Q4.
BlueStacks is "considering" other platforms depending on market demand, including Chrome OS and, I kid you not, the Apple Mac. "It would be fun to have Android apps on Macs, because iPhone apps don't run there," said Sharma.
One downside to this particular implementation of Android OS has been Google withholding access to its Market (at least as last month). The BlueStacks team thinks that problem is solved as well, with the Amazon App Store. Their publicity slides feature the Amazon market as well as GetJar.
Now, BlueStacks is not the only presence in porting Android to x86 platforms. There's currently an open source project that's been underway with OEM support, and Intel has already mentioned their porting of Android OS 3.0 (Honeycomb) to their x86 CPUs for tablets.
These Windows Stay Broken
Only one of my questions took CEO Sharma by surprise. When asked which versions of Windows their product would run under, Sharma said Windows 7, Windows XP, and Windows XP Embedded. There was an obvious one missing, so I asked about it. Sharma told me that not a single potential client or partner had ever asked for Windows Vista.
To Learn More about BlueStacks
You can keep up with BlueStacks on their web page, follow them on Twitter, or find them on Facebook. Lots of people are asking about their beta. What would you do if you could run Android apps on your desktop? If you have a great idea, look into BlueStacks, and share it in comments!
Full Press Release follows:
BlueStacks to Enable Android Applications to Run on Any x86-Based Windows Device
Led by former SVP and CTO of innovation for McAfee, company secures $7.6 million Series A financing to develop the only software to run Android applications on Windows, creating a multi-billion dollar opportunity for PC manufacturers
SAN FRANCISCO -- May 25, 2011 - BlueStacks emerged from stealth mode today to announce it has secured $7.6M in Series A financing from Ignition Ventures, Radar Partners, Helion Ventures, Redpoint Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz to further the development of its groundbreaking technology that will allow users to seamlessly run Android and Windows applications on their x86-based devices. The simultaneous use of Android applications on Windows combined with multi-touch enablement provides users with the opportunity to quickly access personal and work applications, while giving PC manufacturers the chance to take advantage of the growing consumer demand for Android-based mobile enterprise applications.
Founded in March 2008 with the goal of taking advantage of the fast-growing Android OS market and eliminating the need for users to carry two devices, BlueStacks will allow consumers to receive the benefits of both Android and Windows for the cost of a single PC. BlueStacks is led by CEO Rosen Sharma, a serial entrepreneur and most recently SVP and CTO of Innovation at McAfee. In addition to Sharma, Frank Artale of Ignition and Kevin Compton from Radar join the company's board of directors.
"Ignition sees a clear demand for what BlueStacks can deliver: a way to help businesses of all sizes and consumers leverage their device of choice for work and play," said Artale, managing director, Ignition Ventures. "The team has targeted a fundamental problem in a rapidly expanding market, and they have the business acumen and technological expertise to build a market-leading solution. I look forward to working with the team during what is sure to be an exciting time in the company."
BlueStacks will enable PC manufacturers to ride the momentum behind the Android ecosystem by enabling Android applications to be run on x86-based tablets, netbooks, notebooks or all-in-one (AIO) computers. With the new convertible form factors, BlueStacks completely eliminates the need to carry two devices. This in turn enables PC manufacturers to increase their margin on the devices and also benefit from the increase in the lifetime value of the customer because of all the application purchases and stickiness that comes from the user data and preferences.
"It's a compelling strategy for BlueStacks to enable all the popular Android apps on Windows devices. For consumers and businesses alike, this means getting the best of both worlds with the ability to run Android apps on a Windows device that offers all the advantages of familiarity, device interoperability and security," said Chris Cloran, corporate vice president and general manager of Client Computing Solutions, AMD (NYSE: AMD). "AMD is committed to collaborating with software innovators like BlueStacks who take advantage of our unique Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) technology to deliver seamless computing experiences across common industry platforms and based on industry standards."
Added Sharma, "Our vision is for an entirely new type of experience that supports the consumer interest in Android and also allows them to access some of the most valuable enterprise applications, enabling them to use their device of choice for work and play. We are currently working with a number of OEM and strategic partners and look forward to bringing our product to market in Q3 of this year."
Follow BlueStacks on:
BlueStacks enables Android applications to run on Windows machines. The application can appear either as an icon on the Windows desktop, or within a full Android environment. BlueStacks technology can be integrated into offerings for both the consumer and commercial (enterprise) market segments. Incorporated in March 2008 by leaders in Microsoft Windows, mobility and Android development, BlueStacks is privately held and headquartered in Silicon Valley with global offices in India and Japan. For more information, visit www.bluestacks.com.