Media & Entertainment

Android On Your PC: Qualcomm Invests In BlueStacks After Beta Sees 1M Downloads In 10 Days


If you’re an Android and a PC, you should check out BlueStacks — before hackers catch on or Chrome sneaks in this functionality, take advantage. The startup’s software has been going like hotcakes over the last few months, as it’s offering a much-needed service for Android and PC users, having developed software that allows Android users to run their apps on all Windows PCs, tablets, and laptops — without any modifications.

Thanks to this appealing concept, BlueStacks lured $7.6 million in venture funding pre-launch, before adding another $6.4 million a few months later — all from investors like AMD, Citrix Systems, Andreessen Horowitz, Ignition Ventures, and more.

The startup finally released its public beta on March 27th, and so far users have been eating it up. In the first 10 days after its release, BlueStacks’ App Player racked up more than 1 million downloads, with over 12 million apps collectively being run by its users. It’s on the heels of this early traction that the company is today announcing it has found yet another investor — this time from global telecom giant, Qualcomm.

Acting through its venture arm, Qualcomm Ventures, the chipmaker invested an undisclosed amount in BlueStacks, but from what we’ve been hearing from those familiar with the matter, the round was in the seven-figure range.

The startup now has over $15 million in outside investment, which is notable both in size (relative to the age of its product) and for the fact that BlueStacks has been able to bring together (at least symbolically) two of the biggest semiconductor/chipmakers on the market — Qualcomm and AMD. Not two names one typically finds side-by-side on a startup’s roster of investors.

“Consumers are increasingly looking for computing experiences that enable them to access their apps across different platforms,” said VP of Qualcomm Ventures Nagraj Kashyap. “We believe BlueStacks is well-positioned to capitalize on the marriage of mobile and PC.”

Again, for a recap for those unfamiliar, BlueStacks’ App Player is a free software download that gives Android users the ability to get one-click access to their apps on any Windows PC, including full-screen viewing. In turn, the startup’s Cloud Connect lets users push apps from their phone onto their PC easily and remotely, turning PCs into extensions of any Android-based mobile device, using their own personal cloud-based app channel.

Obviously, the big goal for BlueStacks is to bring the some 450,000 Android apps to those billion-odd PC users out there. If done right, it’s a fairly sizable market, to say the least. The other key to the startup’s beta release was the new ability to run graphics-intensive Android apps on desktop PCs, using its patent-pending technology called “Layercake.” Essentially, as we wrote at the time, Layercake allows Android apps to run on x86-based PCs, including apps written for the ARM processor, like Angry Birds Space or Fruit Ninja, for example.

The beta release leverages the PC’s graphics card to enable apps running graphics-intensive engines like Unity to process without hiccups, and also offers accelerometer tilting and pinch-to-zoom smartphone UI features to the desktop via mouse and keyboard prompts. Users can also now download apps from within BlueStacks even if they don’t have an Android phone, and can send and receive SMS messages on their PCs.

The company partnered with the developers behind apps like Fruit Ninja, SliceIt!, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Townsmen, Evernote, Defender and StumbleUpon for its beta release. Shainiel Deo, the CEO of Halfbrick (the makers of Fruit Ninja), said that the appeal of BlueStacks’ software is that developers don’t have to port or modify apps to run them on PCs, meaning there’s no heavy lifting for those who’ve already developed apps for Android.

Of course, Android fragmentation could be a problem, as some users of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus in particular have complained of trouble in syncing app data between devices and PCs — beyond simply syncing APKs — something which will be crucial for its long-term viability. It will also be interesting to see how BlueStacks deals with security, as some users pointed out that the software could become a victim of having to make repeated security upgrades as hackers catch onto loopholes.

But, in the meantime, BlueStacks could offer Android users a great way to avoid using data-time on their smartphones, reducing bills across the board. It also offers Android developers of all stripes access to the billion-user PC market, something which has previously only been offered for a select few, like Rovio and Cut the Rope.

In that sense, BlueStacks wants to become a developer platform, by which developers can build for Android and get a PC app version for free. It’s without a doubt a smart play, and with big money from Andreessen, AMD, Qualcomm and more there’s reason to believe its product will continue to improve, though it will certainly be interesting to see how sustainable the company’s concept can be in the long term. If Windows 8 tablets take off, long-term viability could be within reach.

For more on BlueStacks, check ’em out at home here. Below you’ll find a demo video of Fruit Ninja fullscreen on a PC using BlueStacks software:

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