Last week, we told you about Intel's plans to join Windows and Android at the hip, possibly launching a new brand of computer at this year's Consumer Electronics Show that can run both operating systems simultaneously. As it turns out, Intel is not alone. Chipmaker AMD has just announced a partnership with BlueStacks to do the same thing — and perhaps do it even better than its rival.
Similarly to what we've heard about Intel's solution, BlueStacks will run Android within Windows, and in a way that's more or less seamless to the end user. In this case you'll be able to launch individual Android apps from the Windows 8 Start Screen just like they were native Windows programs and search for new apps using Microsoft's own Windows 8 search charm in conjunction with any app stores you install.
"It's a full-blown ARM processor in there."
But according to BlueStacks CEO Rosen Sharma, AMD has a secret weapon that could make its combined Android and Windows devices more efficient. AMD's latest processors will include an ARM chip inside — the same CPU architecture that Android apps normally use. While earlier downloadable versions of BlueStacks would run Android apps on Windows by virtualizing their ARM code to run on x86 processors, the version that will ship with some new AMD computers could run code natively on the ARM components. "AMD is in a very unique position that they can do hybrid designs which are x86 and ARM, which I think unlocks the space completely and puts them in a leadership position," Sharma says.
One particular advantage could be battery life when running Android apps within Windows. "If you look at some of these other solutions which may be announced, if you use the virtualization technology ... battery life just dies," Sharma says. "It's okay for a PC that's just plugged in like an all-in-one, but you would not use it for your regular machine."
But would you use Android on your regular computer at all, and will Microsoft allow the dual-OS concept to flourish anyhow? When we reported on Intel's plans, we mentioned why Microsoft might raise objections to the idea, and how it wields considerable power to deter PC manufacturers.
"We work quite closely with Microsoft."
Indeed, Sharma declined to comment on whether he has Microsoft's blessing. Still, he argues that the idea has a value that Microsoft should recognize as well. People used to using smartphone apps, he says, use BlueStacks because mobile is more important to them: their smartphone is the first place they download apps, and they don't want to have to learn how to use a different user interface when they try to use the same programs on a Windows desktop. Since Windows Phone isn't popular, at least not yet, many of those users who switch between smartphones and Windows PCs use Android already and thus Android on Windows should flourish, in his opinion.
And though this is far from the first time that BlueStacks has rolled out Android on Windows software — not even the first with AMD — Sharma believes the idea has a better chance this time around. "Doing this right is very hard and there are many ways to get it wrong, and I think we've been through all of those systematically," he laughs. According to the company, several PC manufacturers are already lined up.
"If you are going to create more confusion between desktop, Metro, and an Android mode, that's not good for the market," says Sharma. "But if you do it right, it makes the PC more useful."