ThinkBoxly is the personal developer blog of Lucas Chasteen, author, programmer, artist, and always learning. Read more

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

AMIDuOS - Finally, a Great Way to Run Android Apps on Windows

It's a testament to the prevalence and progress of mobile devices: our smartphones and tablets have reached the point where they aren't merely stand-ins for 'real' computers on-the-go, but are actually so elegant and useful that sometimes we wish 'real' computers imitated them and even ran the same software. In fact, the notion of running Android apps on desktop PCs is nothing new. Bluestacks, Andy, Genymotion—all have made valiant attempts at achieving this dream, but unfortunately have also suffered from a variety of issues ranging from performance to complexity to compatibility. Needless to say, there hasn't been any one solution that stands out as more than a mere novelty, but with AMIDuOS, all that has changed in a big, big way.

AMIDuOS is the product of American Megatrends, Inc (the 'AMI' of 'AMIDuOS'), perhaps best known as 'that company that shows up when you turn on your computer'. It's not often that we see AMI break away from their work on BIOS and motherboard technology, but apparently they've been holding out on us with some of their broader talents, because AMIDuOS is quite simply far and away the best Android-on-PC product out there. Installation is a breeze, with no reliance on additional software like Virtualbox as is the case for Andy and Genymotion, and the hard disk footprint for AMIDuOS is amazingly compact as well. And the only really necessary configuration beyond that is to set AMIDuOS to allocate as much RAM as your PC can afford, so your Android apps don't get clogged up with too little memory to work with. It's done with a simple slider and is perfectly user-friendly. Installing Google Play is a tiny bit less so, but AMI automatically provides clear instructions on the process, which basically amounts to downloading a .zip file, right clicking on it, and opening it with AMIDuOS.

And once that's done, there's...really nothing else to do but just use the software. It's Android. Do whatever you want with it. Root it if you wish. Install SuperSu. Play your favorite games. Practically anything you throw at it will 'just work', especially if you're using a touch-based PC or 2-in-1 like the Microsoft Surface Pro or Asus Transformer Book. Multitouch and sensor support is almost perfect, plus AMIDuOS has built-in hardware OpenGL acceleration so even the most demanding of apps run at near-native performance.

Do be aware though that this is no standard build of Android. At the time of this writing, AMIDuOS uses a custom ROM based on Android 4.2 Jellybean—practically the minimum Android users should be comfortable with—and a custom kernel which is what makes most of the software's magic possible. With this level of customization it will be challenging for AMI to ever stay caught up with Google, sentencing AMIDuOS to a life of perpetual obsolescence, but at least for now Jellybean support remains excellent on the Google Play store and isn't really a concern. Naturally this also means you cannot install your own custom ROMs and kernels, so don't plan on giving your PC a taste of Cyanogen. I also encountered an issue once with a certain game that used a form of copy protection that detected custom ROMs as an automatic illegal operation and refused to run, but this was not the fault of AMIDuOS as much as hyperactive DRM. Still, things to be aware of going in.

But let's not focus too much on what the software can't do, because it most certainly can do quite a lot. While Microsoft has attempted to cultivate their own app store on Windows 8 it hasn't gone very well, so adding Android apps into the mix alleviates the problem handily. It's even possible to create Windows start menu shortcuts directly to Android apps within AMIDuOS. You'll still have to sit through an Android boot screen, but it's certainly nice to have the option of jumping into a particular app directly. And once you're there, it's easy to forget you're running Windows at all. AMI just got it that right. You can even share files and clipboard data between Android and Windows, making it feel like a native extension of your PC.

AMIDuOS is not free software, but the $9.99 asking price is very reasonable for such a solid product, and the initial 30-day free trial offers ample time to give it a go and see if it's worth the pocket money to you. Unfortunately that is $9.99 per PC though, so if you're thinking about using AMIDuOS on multiple devices, you'll have to tally up the cost accordingly. It would be nice if AMI would allow for two or three installations per license, but that's a small gripe among an otherwise highly positive experience. Simply put, I wouldn't mind paying $20 to have AMIDuOS on two PCs because it's just that well made. If you have any interest at all in running your favorite Android apps on your desktop or laptop PC, look no further. AMIDuOS is the best option out there.