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BlueStacks just released the final beta, Version 0.2.5, of its free BlueStacks App Player. The idea behind BlueStacks App Player is a powerful one: Emulate Android on top of other operating systems to allow access to the more than 750,000 Android apps.
The first version of the BlueStacks App Player was released just under a year and it's come a long way since I first tested it last April; overall, it's faster and generally smoother in operation.
[MORE ANDROID: 10 most excellent free Android games]
What's interesting is this new version of the BlueStacks App Player also supports the Microsoft Surface Pro by integrating with the new Windows 8 interface. Given the Surface Pro only has something like 35,000 apps available in the Windows 8 store, Microsoft has to be somewhat pleased to see this tool, even though it means running their arch rival's operating system on their baby.
According to TechCrunch, BlueStacks has cut deals with AMD, Asus, MSI and Lenovo to have the BlueStacks App Player preloaded on more than 100 million PCs in 2013, and deals with Dell and HP are in the works.
The company claims "the BlueStacks virtualization technology can very easily support different permutations and combinations of operating systems and their applications," and suggests it will be able to run Android on Windows on ARM architectures, on the Chrome OS (for x86), in a Chrome browser tab, and even run Windows on Android (now that's intriguing).
How does Bluestacks do all of this? The company claims to have developed a multi-OS runtime with "breakthrough virtualization technology." The company describes this as "a lightweight, optimized, soft hypervisor with deep enhancements to support 'embedded virtualization'."
That said, on OS X, apps running under the BlueStacks App Player are oddly twitchy -- the slightest mouse movements will be interpreted in unexpected ways and you'll suddenly find yourself hurtling away from whatever you were doing to another part of your app. This is incredibly annoying.
A really cool thing to do is to install Ubuntu for Android on the BlueStacks App Player, but after wrestling with this for a couple of hours I gave up. I had to download the OS images (which seemed amazingly slow) and then unzip and install them. A combination of failed downloads and file managers that wouldn't delete files was too much. I shall try again when I have a little more time.
So, even though trying to get Ubuntu for Android running was disappointing, all of the more common Android apps I tried worked perfectly. For example, Fruit Ninja worked astoundingly well and reminded me once again why I don't like games ... mainly because I'm not very good at them.
The BlueStacks App Player is a very impressive platform and, minor flaws aside, it's a very cool achievement and gets a Gearhead rating of 4 out of 5.