How to Run Android Apps on Windows PCs, Macs and BlackBerrys

CIO.com blogger James A. Martin spotlights a number of ways to run OS-specific applications on a variety of different gadgets, including PCs, Macs, Android devices, Windows Phones and BlackBerrys.

Android, iPhone, BlackBerry or Windows Phone? The decision isn’t an easy one. But it might get easier in the near future, thanks to a hacktivist culture that's going mainstream.

Developers and hackers are working on projects, or they're already available, that will run Android apps on BlackBerry 10 phones, Windows 8 PCs and Mac computers. And they're working to enable Android devices to run Windows software, and Windows machines to run iPad apps. It’s too soon to say if some of these will actually work well. And of course, virtual/remote desktop and other software services already enable you to run Windows on iOS and Android machines. But here’s a quick look at the growing cross-pollination of mobile and desktop operating systems.

Android Apps on Windows 8 PCs and Macs

The BlueStacks’ Android App Player is free software that lets you run Android apps in emulation mode on Windows 8 and Mac OS X computers. You don’t have to toggle between OS environments; just click an Android app icon to launch it. BlueStacks has been available for a while, but its Windows 8 and Mac software (both in beta) are fairly new.

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Android Apps on BlackBerry PlayBook and BlackBerry 10

Both the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and the new BlackBerry 10 OS, revealed last week to much fanfare, feature a runtime "Android Player" that lets Android apps run on PlayBooks and BlackBerry 10 devices. Android apps need to be modified or "repackaged" to run on BlackBerrys, but the process isn't particularly difficult for developers. Not all Android apps are compatible with the BlackBerry player, either, and users need to "sideload" many of them manually. (The first BlackBerry 10 devices will be available in the United States in mid-March.)

Windows Software on Android

The Wine project recently showed off an early version of Wine for Android. Wine is free, open-source software—not an emulator—that lets you run Windows software on non-Windows machines, including Linux computers. The project’s lead developer says you’ll be able to use Wine to run native Windows software applications on an Android tablet in the near future. Wine will be free. Given how Wine currently works, however, you probably won’t be able to run every Windows program, at least not without some tweaking. (Keep in mind you can already run Windows apps on Android and iOS devices using services such as OnLive Desktop, but not for free.)

iPad Apps on a Windows PC

Apple’s iOS is a walled garden, but hackers love to scale those walls just the same. Case in point: The freeware iPadian, which promises to let you run iPad apps on a Windows computer via Adobe Air. You don't get access to the official Apple app store, not surprisingly, but iPadian has its own app store. It sounds intriguing, but for security reasons I recommend proceeding with caution.

Are you running a mobile OS on your desktop computer, or vice versa? If so, how? And what has been your experience?

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