Thursday 14 February 2013

Run full-screen Android apps on Windows 8 tablets now

Surface users frustrated by the lack of quality apps in the Windows 8 Store can breathe a sigh of relief. Rescue comes in the form of BlueStacks, the startup which had previously launched the App Player software for PCs and Macs, allowing those systems to run all Android apps.

Bluestacks has released a version of its App Player optimised for the Microsoft Surface Pro tablets as well as others running Windows 8. The move comes hot on the heels of BlueStack’s distribution agreements with major players in the PC ecosystem, including deals with Asus and Lenovo, which will see the software pre-installed on over 100 million PCs in 2013.

“The Surface Pro is an innovative device, but it has none of the top apps,” BlueStacks CEO, Rosen Sharma, said rather bluntly. He added, “This fixes that and adds a lot of value for buyers.”

The company has also revamped navigation in the Windows 8 release. BlueStacks’ App Player can be now launched from a tile pinned to the Windows 8 Start screen, and the player supports full-screen mode. This was not the case in earlier releases where a BlueStacks control strip was always at the bottom of the screen. There’s also a new 'Charms' menu, hidden away on the right side of the screen, just like the Windows 8 implementation. Here, the traditional Android buttons are located, but hide away when the mouse moves away from the right corner.

BlueStacks is promoting the Windows 8 application, with a GetYourAppsBack campaign that lets users download both the App Player and Android apps.

The BlueStacks release comes at a time when Microsoft’s tablet was being panned for offering only some 35,000 apps currently available in the Windows 8 store. Surface owners now have access to 750,000+ Android applications on their tablets, a big change in the status quo.

The Surface tablets indeed have great hardware and the keyboard-cover is a very clever implementation. Android apps can use the tilt and motion sensor of the Surface Pro tablet to re-orient their display to portrait or landscape mode accordingly. Given this, one wonders how Microsoft hopes to reinvigorate its own app store. Customers can now freely use Android apps on the Surface, so while the tablet’s sales might pick up, the Windows 8 app store will still lag behind, without a push for original app development.

“We have had a lot of people write us that they were on the fence about getting a Surface Pro, and were waiting for something like this,” John Gargiulo, VP of Marketing and Biz Dev at the company said. According to their website, the company has had over 5 million downloads of its mobile software across both Mac and PC platforms. So clearly, it is a popular option for those wanting the best of both worlds.

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