February 11, 2012, 7:48 AM — As the popularity of smartphones and tablets increases, so will our dependence on the myriad apps available for them. Whether the end result is a hot game, a handy price checker, or a useful contact manager, the constraints of smartphone and tablet designs and interfaces have forced app developers to find creative ways to present and access data.
Unfortunately, most apps created for smartphones or tablets aren't available for use on a PC. Some apps let you sync favorites or other personal data with a companion program or a somewhat equivalent application on a PC, but mobile apps and their PC counterparts are rarely the same.
Thankfully, Silicon Valley-based startup BlueStacks recently released an alpha version of what the company calls an app player--a PC program that enables users to download Android apps directly or transfer them from an Android-based smartphone or tablet to their PC. The BlueStacks app player essentially runs an instance of Android in a virtualized environment on the PC, so the apps act as though they're running on a mobile device. If that's something you'd like to try, here's how to set it up.
Getting Started With BlueStacks
Using the BlueStacks app player is relatively straightforward, but there are some quirks involved with getting apps from a mobile device to a PC which we'll go into a little later. To use the BlueStacks app player, you must first download it from the BlueStacks website or from PCWorld's Downloads Library. Then run the BlueStacks app player installation file, and follow the on-screen prompts to complete the installation. Keep in mind that the BlueStacks app player is still in the early phases of development, so you can expect some minor performance issues and perhaps a bug or two.
When the installation is complete, you'll see a short video describing how the BlueStacks app player works and how you can access a few key features. Though the video doesn't offer a ton of information, it's worth watching to ease your learning curve. The BlueStacks app player isn't terribly intrusive: It requires minimal space and consumes few system resources; but it does launch automatically with your PC, and it displays a status icon in the system tray. The app also connects automatically to BlueStacks servers. If you prefer not to have the player launch every time your PC boots up, you can disable the BlueStacks launcher via the Startup tab in the MSCONFIG tool (to access the tool, select Run from the Start menu, type msconfig, and press Enter).