Do you have a favorite Android app that you wish you could run on your Windows tablet or laptop? Well, now you can. A new program called DuOS-M runs full-blown Android as its own Windows application, so that you run almost any Android app on a Windows 7/8/8.1 system.
DuOS-M goes beyond mere emulation. Its abilities include Windows-Android integration, so you can copy and paste between the operating systems. It even can trick Android apps that require GPS into thinking that a Windows PC without GPS actually has it.
Installing Android on a Windows device
DuOS-M requires a more complex setup than casual users might want to face. It doesn't take a great deal of technical knowledge -- I just found it to be a bit annoying.
The basic process is simple. You just go to the DuOS website and click the Download button; an installer downloads the installation files and then installs DuOS-M. You can then run DuOS-M like any other Windows application, by double-clicking it.
However, if you're interested in running the widest selection of Android apps, you've got to take another step. DuOS-M installs the KitKat (4.4.2) version of Android, but it leaves out something very important: the Google Play Store. Instead, it uses the Amazon Appstore, which has a much more limited selection. So you'll want to install the Google Play Store before doing anything else.
Head to http://amiduos.com/nextsteps, where you'll find instructions to install the Play Store and a link to the necessary Zip file. Download the file, right-click it and select "Apply to DuOS" from the menu that appears. That will update DuOS-M and put the Google Play Store on it. Just make sure that DuOS-M is running when you do this -- otherwise, the update won't work.
Unfortunately, there are potential problems with this process. If you install any Google apps before you update DuOS-M, you'll have to re-install them after you install the Play Store. And American Megatrends, developer of DuOS-M, warns that the site you download the patch from "is a third-party website, not hosted or maintained by American Megatrends, Inc." So if you run into problems, you may be on your own.
Once you've installed the Play Store, you'll go through a familiar Android setup routine, including logging into your existing Google account (or creating a new one), as well as selecting whether to let Android use Wi-Fi location services, and whether to let Google use your location. After that, you're done -- finally.
Once DuOS-M was up and running, it was a breeze to use. I installed it on a Microsoft Surface Pro 2, and as promised, it essentially turned the Surface into an Android tablet.
DuOS-M runs in its own window, just like any other Windows application. You can run it full screen or in a small window on the desktop -- you can also drag the window around and put it anywhere you want on the desktop -- but you can't resize the window.
Its interface is the usual Android one, with the familiar three buttons at the bottom of the screen for going to the Home screen, displaying recently run apps and going back a step. They all work exactly as they do on normal Android tablets. There's also the usual Apps Screen that contains apps and widgets; you can customize your Home Screen by dragging the apps and widgets to it, just as you can in normal Android.
All of Android's multi-touch gestures worked on my Surface tablet, including pinch, zoom, swipe, rotate and so on. DuOS-M recognized my camera, audio speakers and microphone, so I could do things such as using Google's Voice Search feature. As the saying goes: It just works.
Most of the apps that I tried ran on DuOS-M just as if they were running on an Android tablet. Gmail, Google Maps, Netflix, Waze -- all ran without issues. The same held true for the games I tried. DuOS-M even uses Windows' OpenGL drivers for game acceleration.
I was quite surprised that it ran Waze, because on Android, Waze needs GPS, and the Surface Pro 2 doesn't include a GPS chip. To make apps like Waze work, American Megatrends says DuOS-M fools Android into using your Wi-Fi location and Google location services instead of GPS. (The company warns, however, that not all apps that require GPS will work on tablets without GPS chips.)
This brings up a compatibility caveat. If an Android app requires special hardware, such as an accelerometer, gyroscope or compass, and your Windows tablet or PC doesn't have that hardware, the apps won't work. And you may also find the occasional app that won't work for unexplained reasons.
For example, I was unable to get the barcode and QR code-scanning app Barcode Scanner to work, even though the app was able to access the Surface 2 Pro's camera. And DuOS-M will only run apps designed for tablets, not phones, so apps like WhatsApp won't work either.
Android plays nice with Windows
DuOS-M goes beyond just running Android on a Windows tablet. It also offers some useful Windows integration. To begin with, if you've got a desktop or laptop without a touchscreen, you'll be pleased to know that DuOS-M has mouse support -- so instead of tapping, you can click. Still, you probably won't want to run it without a touchscreen, because there's no way for the mouse to emulate multi-touch gestures.
And because DuOS-M runs like any other Windows app, you can use Windows' navigational tools. So Alt-Tab, for example, works as it normally does, switching you to another running application. In Windows 8, press the Windows key + C, and you'll bring up the Charms bar on top of Android. Global Windows gestures work as well, such as swiping from the right to bring up the Charms bar and swiping from the left to switch to another running application.
Windows 8 users should be aware that DuOS-M works as a Desktop application, not a Start screen app, so mouse movements such as hovering on the lower left-hand side of the screen won't bring up the Start menu, while hovering on the upper left and bringing down the mouse cursor won't show you all of your currently running apps.
You can also copy and paste between an Android app and a Windows one using a shared clipboard. Just use the normal ways to copy and paste for each operating system. You can also have DuOS-M use the same folders for music, videos, pictures and documents that Windows does, so that all of your content is in the same folders. (If you want, you can choose different folders.)
DuOS-M, which costs $10 after a 30-day free trial, isn't the only program out there that lets you run Android apps on a PC -- the popular free app BlueStacks can do that as well. But BlueStacks doesn't run the entire Android operating system -- instead, it lets you run individual Android apps inside Windows. So if you want the full-blown Android experience, you'll want DuOS-M. If you only want to run one or two individual apps, the free BlueStacks might be a better bet.
Note that the DuOS-M currently runs Android 4.4 KitKat rather than the most up-to-date version of the OS, Android 5 Lollipop. Sometime in March, DuOS-M is scheduled for an upgrade, and at that point, says American Megatrends, it will run Lollipop.
In short: DuOS-M isn't perfect. The installation routine clearly needs help. And you'll come across the occasional Android app that won't run on it. Still, for anyone who wants a Windows tablet to do double-duty as an Android tablet, it's a no-brainer. It's well worth the price of two fancy cups of coffee.