There has been talks about Microsoft letting Android apps run on Windows, but while the idea will help to bring more apps to the operating system, the fear of developers not being encourage to write for Windows seem to have stalled the idea.
In the past, we had different ways to make Android apps run on Windows, such as using an emulator like BlueStack, but now it seems that Google is planning to streamline the process, letting apps run freely on Windows, Mac OS X, and even Linux and the only requirement is to have a Chrome web browser.
It’s all part of a new experiment Google calls “ARC” (App Runtime for Chrome), which is an app for Chrome that allows developers to test apps on different platforms — that being on a PC or Mac –, but more importantly, because the app is freely available, anyone can easily setup an environment to run Android apps on their computers.
If you want to run Android apps on a PC or Mac, you’ll need to install Google Chrome, version 40 or later, you’ll need get the ARC Welder app, and you also need to obtain the APKs from Google’s Play Store or from around the web, which can be easily found.
Once you have all the ingredients, open the ARC Welder app, and open one of the .apk files you have downloaded.
There are some limitations running Android apps in this environment, the fact that all the Android apps have been designed for touch, makes it a bit difficult to use apps with a keyboard and mouse. You need to configure the orientation for each app (landscape or portrait), and you can run only one app at a time. However, you can run more than one app, if you select the download Zip option in the ARC app and you extract the content and then enable extension developer mode to load the folder you have extracted the Android app.
After configuring the settings, simply click the “Launch App”, and the app should now start.
There is no much mystery on how things work, make sure you have Google Chrome version 40 or later, install the ARC Welder app from the Chrome Web Store, find some Android apps (.apk files), and launch the app.
It’s worth pointing out that ARC is based on Android 4.4 (KitKat), which means that a lot of apps are compatible to run in this environment. You can try Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard, Pocket, and Instagram, just to name a few. Games also work well, but you’ll find those that will refuse to work, most of the time it will be because they were specially designed for different hardware.
The project still in its early stages, which means that you shouldn’t expect everything to work flawlessly, errors and problems will be part of the experience, but as Google keeps updating its browser and the ARC Welder app, and developers adjust their apps to work for ARC, expect things to get better.
It’s clear where Google is going with ARC, Microsoft has introduced the idea of universal apps for Windows 10 that work across platform, including PCs, phones, tablets, and Xbox One. Now Google may be planning to do the same thing by implementing its own universal apps idea, while continuing pushing out its web browser in the process.