Curt Harler is a regular contributor to SD&I magazine.
It is becoming common to hear security dealers say that their smartphone-using customers wish they could run their applications on their PCs. And it makes sense.
A PC has a larger display than the two-inch display on most phones, eliminating the need to squint at the screen. A PC has more storage available, especially now that PC hard disk prices have hit the floor. PCs can also access data much faster. Now that many power users are adding solid-state disks to their boxes and with multiple cores, PCs now have more computing power (for now) to bring to bear.
Based in Campbell, Calif., two-year-old start-up company BlueStacks.com created a smartphone app that, when installed on a PC, allows users to run any Android app. That means everything from your company’s remote security app to Angry Birds.
Apu Kumar, senior vice-president of Global Sales and Strategic Alliances, said the company lists firms like A&B, Intel and Citrix as its earliest venture capital investors.
A killer app that is kind to users
It is easy to see why. BlueStacks is what the software business calls a killer app. Like so many other mega-hits, its beauty lies in its simplicity. “We take Android apps and run them through a platform that coexists with Windows on your PC,” Kumar said.
It is important to note this program is not an emulator. It is programmed in native Windows code and will not require a virtual machine to run, which means it will not run slower than that dark brown stuff poured on pancakes in January. That alone should endear it to security dealers who are trying to bridge the gap.
Kumar said that when BlueStacks offered a free alpha version of their program that ran on Windows 7 in the Android market in mid-October last year, the app racked up 800,000 downloads in three months.
“We haven’t found a limit to the application’s use,” he said.
That’s not just company hype. When Windows 8 is released to the public, security dealers will find BlueStacks pre-installed on their customers’ computers, which means Windows 8 users will be able to use any and all Google Android apps, placing this operating system on the same competitive footing as Apple’s iOS.
When asked if the company was planning a BlueStacks version for the iPhone, Kumar replied with “no comment.” But it is far from unthinkable for the company, which has 32 employees and has offices in the United States, China, India, Taiwan, Japan and Korea.
What Kumar was willing to talk about was a joint venture between BlueStacks and Citrix to develop an enterprise-level version of the program.
Does BlueStacks make sense for the security business? After all, it is nothing short of a trend that lots of security system applications are coming to market with smartphone and tablet apps as components. The answer to that question appears to be a qualified “yes.”
For systems that are already digital, BlueStacks does not make a compelling case. But if the package is not computer-based and some consideration is being given to put a security app into the customer’s hand to access their security from anywhere, BlueStacks should probably come with the bundle.
Sense for who and whom?
It also makes sense for companies designing ground-up systems with Smartphone or tablet inputting. Using BlueStacks means companies won’t have to have two development teams—one for the mobile app component and the other for the Windows component.
Indiana-based video management software firm Exacq Technologies is a good example of a company that might not benefit from BlueStacks. It is not a good BlueStacks candidate because their system is already PC-based. The only feature Exacq’s clients really like on their app version more than their PC version is the touch-screen interface.
But even the Metro-UI touch-screen interface featured in Windows 8 isn’t enough of a draw to move them from their current configuration. “The Windows 8 operating system still requires input devices, in addition to its software,” said Tom Buckley, Exacq’s director of Sales and Marketing.
He described the product as a high-end server and mobile package. The mobile portion allows users to get into the system and view all of their cameras, view saved views, see live camera feeds, email clips and provides access to viewing a search system.
“Two-thirds of our existing installations use mobile apps, mainly because they find it convenient,” said Buckley. “For example, users who access Exacq with tablets can view 16 cameras at once in a usable view.”
The mobile technology is a definite draw, he said. “It is very sexy. No matter how many bells and whistles our presentations might have, all the customers will remember is that cool iPad.”
Customers get the app for no additional cost. And yet, the app didn’t come without any costs to the company. Exacq had no app developers on its payroll, so it had to contract an app developer to create one.
“Now that so many of our customers use them, we have a full-time, mobile app engineer to maintain that part of the system,” Buckley said.
BlueStacks is poised to become quite a hot commodity on the new horizon of mobile app technology. Clearly it will not be useful for those whose customer offerings are already housed on PC-based servers.
But for those whose development comes up through the Android app market it already serves and the Apple app market it may serve in the future, BlueStacks is clearly on the must-have list to complete the circle on multi-platform operability. Taken together, the two operating systems own just over half of the world smartphone app market.
PC apps and mobile apps will no longer be separated by Windows. It is about to be their common bind.
Curt Harler is a regular contributor to SD&I magazine. He can be reached at Curt@curtharler.com. David Weinstock is also a freelance writer, specializing in technology.