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Android apps can now run on your PC via BlueStacks

Now available for anyone to download, a new test program called the BlueStacks App Player lets people run Android apps directly on their Windows PCs.

Those of you who want to check out an Android app without an Android device can now run that app on your PC thanks to a program from the folks at BlueStacks (download).

The software, dubbed the BlueStacks App Player, has just hit the alpha stage, meaning a test version of it is now available for anyone to download. The basic player lets you run several preloaded apps, install up to 26 others, and sync apps from an Android phone to your PC.

I installed the App Player on a PC running Windows 7. The installation failed the first time around, but a second attempt proved successful. The app places an Android gadget in the upper right corner of your screen. Clicking on the gadget opens a menu from which you can launch any of the preloaded Android apps, including Bloomberg News, Bubble Buster, Words Free, and Drag Racing, along with six others.

The apps themselves launch in a full-screen virtualized version of the Android operating system, so they run smoothly. The only obstacle I encountered is that since the apps are designed for a touch screen device, running them on a desktop computer with keyboard and mouse was less than ideal. Using a laptop with a multitouch pad was definitely an improvement. Overall, the integration with Windows via a simple desktop gadget proved to be clean and seamless.

Lance Whitney/CNET

You can click on an option to add more apps, which requires you to log into the BlueStacks App Channels using a Facebook account. From the Channels page you can download apps that connect you to the Web sites of dozens of newspapers and news outlets, as well as a host of games, including Checkers, MineSweeper, Sudoku, and Memory Trainer.

To send apps from your phone or tablet to your PC, you'll first need to download the BlueStacks Cloud Connect App on from Google's Android Market and install it on your mobile device. Entering a unique pin number in the app then sets up the connection with your PC, allowing you to push over apps from your device.

For now the App Player supports only Windows PCs. The company is working on a Mac version but concedes that it may be a while before one is available. BlueStacks is also busy cooking up a premium version of the App Player, which as yet has no price tag, but would support such apps as Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja, and let you add an unlimited number of apps.

Speaking with CNET this past May, company CEO and co-founder Rosen Sharma, who previously was McAfee's chief technology officer, explained that he got the idea for BlueStacks from his 6-year-old daughter.

"She went to a Netbook, and she wanted the same apps on it," Sharma said. But obviously that wasn't doable. "The number of people who want something like that is very, very large--both consumer and enterprise," he added.