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How BlueStacks will make Android apps work on Windows PCs

by Brad Spirrison

Rosen Sharma, CEO BlueStacksEarlier this year, Motorola introduced to the world an ability to operate Android apps on a large screen with its Atrix smartphone and Webtop Application dock. For those clamoring for more ways to play Angry Birds on a device larger than a tablet, BlueStacks has you covered.

San Francisco-based BlueStacks this fall will be unveiling a new product that lets users operate Android apps on Windows-based devices. The company, which to date has raised $7.6 million in venture capital financing, will release an alpha version of its technology for enthusiastic followers to sample.

In this edition of Meet the Makers, we speak with BlueStacks CEO Rosen Sharma about what inspired to mission to cross Windows and Android platforms, why most apps will run on the technology as-is, and which apps are among his team’s favorites to run on Windows computers.

APPO: There is a lot of pent up demand for a product that can seamlessly run Android apps on Windows devices. So, when do you expect a commercial version of BlueStacks to come out, and what are the remaining issues to address in the interim?

Rosen Sharma: We’re really excited for our limited alpha release in July. We have a sign-up on our Facebook page that has attracted over 10,000 applications in just three weeks. Our full product release will be sometime later this year. Every minute until then will be spent making sure we clear the ridiculously high bar that both we and our fellow users have set for the product.

APPO: What inspired you to develop the technology and what use cases are you experiencing now that you did not envision at the onset?

RS: The inspiration for BlueStacks came from a precocious six-year-old girl. Her name is Mahi, and she is the daughter of our CTO, Suman Saraf. Two years ago Suman and Mahi were on a train in Switzerland and she was playing a game on his phone. When they got to the hotel, she wanted to play with the same app on her dad’s laptop. When Suman explained that such a thing wasn’t possible, Mahi was quite confused, and it got her dad thinking. This was the genesis of BlueStacks.

There are myriad implications for a world where you can run Android quickly on Windows. Our growing community on Facebook seems to come up with a new one every day. We’re a user-centric company and will build towards where the growth and needs are.

APPO: Describe the biggest technical hurdles and commercial hurdles in bringing Android and Windows together on one device.

RS: The technical hurdles are plenty, and we have an engineering team that has ventured over, around and through them over the past two years. It took some amazingly complex technology to build a product that works so simply.

The commercial response has been violently positive. PC sales at many OEMs are starting to slip, and BlueStacks enables the more innovative among them to offer a very clear and exciting point of differentiation. In the enterprise, we couldn’t be happier to have a partner like Citrix. Through their popular Citrix Receiver product, they will be enabling Android app access through our technology for up to 60 million of their users.

APPO: What are your favorite Android apps to run on Windows devices?

RS: Internally we love LivingSocial, Pulse, Engadget and Huffpo. They look beautiful full-screen and the user experience is arguably even richer than on the smaller form factors.

APPO: Will users to be able to access all or the vast majority of Android apps with BlueStacks?

RS: Eighty percent of Android apps port over to the PC through BlueStacks completely as-is. There is no need for developers to redesign for our platform. Mouse, keyboard and trackpad interaction with the apps is seamless, and we have a lot of IP around that. Apps that use geo-location usually work fine by identifying the user’s location based on where his Wi-Fi network is.

APPO: Is there any thought to create additional products that merge aspects of major operating systems?

RS: We’ve already actually built a BlueStacks for Chrome, Mac and others. But, after speaking with users and PC manufacturers, we felt like the Windows market was the most in need of this solution.The technology itself is not Android or Windows-specific – we can merge other OS's. We may do so in the future as this very fluid space develops.

Right now we’re just going to where the party is, and that’s Android.

APPO: BlueStacks raised $7.6 million in venture capital. What similarities - if any - do you see between raising venture money for mobile media today compared to the Internet boom a dozen years ago?

RS: There’s obviously a lot of money sloshing around the Valley right now, and there’s all this talk of a bubble. We feel like we have an 18-month headstart in developing this highly technical, yet simple to use, product. We’ve got our heads down making it the absolute best it can be right now.

APPO: What are the three biggest aspects of the mobile media sector that keep you up at night?

RS: Mobile is still a relatively new space, and it’s extremely fluid right now. It’s amazing to think the first iPad came out just over a year ago. We can’t predict which OS's, device-makers or app stores will win out in the coming years, but we feel like we’re positioned right in the middle of the maelstrom, and that’s a good place to be right now. Other than that we sleep pretty well - we've got to get up early in the morning and keep building!