The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet just recently received a software update which gave it a long-promised feature: The ability to run Android apps. It had some severe limitations when it was released, however, and those limits just got even greater.
Meanwhile, some enterprising programmers have hacked a Windows program called BlueStacks, which allows you to run Android apps on your Windows PC, to allow even greater capabilities, including the installation of the Google Play store.
BlackBerry PlayBook: Sideloading disabled for nondevelopers
Sideloading an Android app means to install it from outside of an app store such as the Google Play store or Amazon's. Most of today's Android smartphones support this feature, and one thing it's commonly used for is to install other app stores such as Amazon's "Appstore for Android" or the F-Droid free software repository. It can also be used to install apps sold on the Internet, such as Gameloft's titles, while developers can use the feature to test versions of their apps.
As RIM's vice president of developer relations, Alec Saunders, clarified on the BlackBerry Developer Blog, that last group of people -- app developers -- are now the only ones who can sideload Android apps on their BlackBerry PlayBooks. That's because sideloading can also be used to pirate apps; Saunders claimed on Twitter that "piracy is a huge problem for Android devs," and called the Android app market a "cesspool." Removing sideloading makes the BlackBerry App World the only way to get Android apps now, though, and PlayBook support is -- to say the least -- not a huge priority for most Android app developers.
Windows: BlueStacks App Player "rooted"
The BlueStacks App Player is basically the open-source Android OS running on your Windows PC, with a simplified interface that's all about launching apps. Until now, though, the biggest way to get apps was to install the BlueStacks Cloud Connect app on your Android smartphone or tablet, and tell it to send your apps to your PC. And as reviewers on the Google Play store attest, this doesn't work for some apps, and it doesn't sync your app data, like notes or saved games.
That last problem apparently still hasn't been fixed. But a little while ago, pseudonymous XDA Developers forum member xRepinsSporx came up with a way to gain root access to the BlueStacks player, allowing the user to do basically whatever they want with it ... including install the Google Play store. Like with most such things on XDA, however, the instructions posted there are only for the technically savvy, and the ability to do this may be patched at some future point by the BlueStacks developers.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.