AMD, BlueStacks Bring 500,000 Android Apps To Windows

AMD's AppZone taps BlueStacks tech to bring popular Android apps to PCs. What does that mean for Microsoft's new Windows app marketplace?
BlueStacks, the Campbell, Calif.-based startup and maker of App Player, which allows Android applications to run on PCs and Macs, has formed a partnership with chipmaker AMD that could significantly expand the young company's reach. The collaboration integrates technology from BlueStacks, whose investors include AMD, into the newly launched AMD AppZone, a marketplace that will make upwards of 500,000 Android apps available to traditional desktop and laptop users.

BlueStacks offered a beta version of its App Player in March and extended service to Macs in July, and has attracted millions of users in the process. The announcement doesn't restrict users from continuing to use App Player on Intel-based Windows systems or OS X, but with BlueStacks technology now serving as the engine for AppZone, AMD claims it will offer the fastest user experience. In a blog post, the company explained that "BlueStacks has designed and optimized the player for AMD Radeon graphics and ... OpenGL drivers found in [ADM] APUs and GPUs." The results should allow machines running Windows 7 or Windows 8 to smoothly run Android apps in full-screen mode.

The partnership also allows users to automatically sync AppZone apps with Android-based devices via BlueStacks Cloud Connect. AMD will push the new features to Windows 7 users and include it on forthcoming Windows 8 machines.

[ Check out what AMD's competitor is doing with Win8 hardware. See Intel, Hardware Partners Show More Windows 8 Devices. ]

The news provoked some speculation about the trajectory of app marketplaces on Windows. With less than a month until the launch of Microsoft's new OS, the platform's app store has amassed a somewhat anemic collection of offerings. Whether Windows can compete with the massive Android and iOS ecosystems will depend on how many apps are available after products actually start shipping, meaning that current speculation is necessarily qualified. Even so, if Android apps can simply be ported to Windows, some observers are already asking whether developers will feel incentivized to write dedicated code for the new OS.

Such questions are only meaningful, of course, if AppZone emulation effectively recreates the native app experience--and early reviews indicate promising-but-mixed results. Still, with Windows 8 offering touch-based functions that can more fully support given apps' original design goals, it's premature to say whether the new technology will sway developer decisions.

Even so, BlueStacks and AppZone are part of a larger narrative in which mobile-flavored apps have begun to shape and even replace aspects of the traditional PC user experience. Intel's AppUp, for example, is a similar service for running apps on Intel-based machines.

Gartner analyst Sergis Mushell expressed in an interview that this larger story is one of the most interesting aspects of the BlueStacks-AMD union. To date, ARM has dominated the mobile processing space, but "what one needs to think about," he said, "is the enablement of x86 moving into a tablet world and functioning like a tablet."

Noting that some upcoming Android smartphones will use Intel processors while imminent Windows RT devices will run on ARM, Mushell said that the cross-pollination suggests "x86 is going to encroach on ARM in a way, while ARM is encroaching on x86 through Windows." He couldn't speculate on the eventual implications--but if the movement gains momentum, it could clearly influence how marketplace feuds among processor-makers play out, and how platforms vie for developer attention.