Ina Fried

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Start-Up BlueStacks Raises Cash to Bring Android Apps to Windows PCs

A couple years back, Rosen Sharma, Suman Saraf and colleagues had founded a startup, BlueStacks, to work on virtualization. They just hadn’t figured out the right use of the technology on which to focus.

At least, they hadn’t until the summer of 2009 when Saraf took a trip to Switzerland with his family. Throughout the trip he allowed his then six-year-old daughter, Mahi, to play games on his Android phone. Of course, when he got home, Mahi wanted to keep playing the same games on the family computer–a Windows PC. And, with that, Saraf and team had their idea.

Now, they are ready to share their idea publicly. BlueStacks plans to show off its technology at the Citrix Synergy conference on Wednesday, as well as detail its ambitious plan to convince PC makers to load their software on new computers, ideally enabling tens of millions of Windows computers to run Android apps over the next couple of years.

The company plans to announce the first deals with computer makers next week at the Computex trade show in Taiwan. BlueStacks is also announcing it has nabbed $7.6 million in Series A funding from investors from Ignition Ventures, Radar Partners, Helion Ventures, Redpoint Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.

Under the covers, BlueStacks uses virtualization, though the goal is to make all the techy stuff invisible to the user, so that all they see is a Windows PC that can also run Android apps.

Sharma, the company’s CEO, told AllThingsD that the company thinks it will find eager customers among PC makers looking to stand out from one another, while reacting to the rise of the iPad and Android.

“All of them are suffering because the iPad came out,” Sharma said. “They don’t really have an answer. The answer most of them come up with is lets make an Android tablet.”

However, Sharma said he questions how many they will sell, particularly if they don’t have anything to stand out from the pack.

Of course, any system running BlueStacks’ software is, at its heart, a Windows machine with all the pros and cons that entails. That means it won’t have the battery life or instant start-up of an Android tablet or iPad, but it also can run all of the Windows apps, in addition to those for Android.

As for BlueStacks’ business model, Sharma said the company is focused on getting as broad distribution as it can, but is seeking payment for each PC that ships with its software. Though the deals vary, he said it is more than $10 per PC, though he wouldn’t be more specific.

“It’s not in the single digits,” he said.

In the initial release, BlueStacks software will support version 2.2 of Android, also known as Froyo, though it should be upgradeable in the future. The company also hopes to offer a version that existing PC owners can download to run Android on their PCs.

The idea of mixing mobile operating systems with Windows is not new, though others are taking somewhat different approaches. HP, for example, has said it plans to start enabling the WebOS used on Palm phones to run on the company’s Windows PCs. Meanwhile, Lenovo has shown a convertible tablet that runs Android when used as a tablet and then runs Windows when a keyboard is plugged in. In that case, though, it has two separate computers and the cost of the product is roughly the same as a PC and Android device combined.

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