In case you missed the news, PC sales have been down at worst and flat at best for several quarters. Obviously, that’s generally bad news for Team WinTel, aka: Microsoft and Intel. Both companies, which have dominated the PC market on the hardware and software side for at least two decades, have taken steps to address this but one may have a new trick for old laptops at CES: Systems that effectively run both Windows and Android.
This type of device isn’t new. Take the Asus Transformer Book Trio for example: It looks like a traditional Windows 8 laptop with an Intel chip inside. It also has a removable display where another lower-powered Intel chip resides so the display can act as a full-fledged Android tablet. The T300 base can still be used for Windows if connected to an external monitor.
So what might be different at CES? Sources told The Verge that a twist on this approach could appear at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show; something called a Dual OS device. The difference here is that Android apps could run in a virtual machine inside of the Windows 8 environment, which makes it simpler for consumers. However, neither Microsoft or Google is on board, according to The Verge.
I can understand why Microsoft might not be happy. After all, aren’t the company’s own Surface products marketed as both a great laptop and a great tablet? I think Surface Pro 2 actually comes close, but still falls a little short of the mark for me. Regardless, if Microsoft’s biggest partner of all — Intel — supports such an anti-Microsoft move (for lack of a better term) it won’t likely be happy.
As far as Google though? Why wouldn’t it want Android apps on anything that can run them? Google wins in this case because it captures more user data for its advertising model.
And this approach of Android within Windows hasn’t been a problem before to Google: Bluestacks (which Intel is a partner with) has existed for some time offering Android apps in a Windows virtual machine. Heck, in June of 2012, Asus partnered with Bluestacks to pre-install the Android VM on 30 million computers and Google didn’t make a peep. Why should it?
Regardless of who supports any potential Android in Windows project, the bigger question is: How much can it help the flagging PC industry?
I think the idea of running Android apps will be appealing to some, but I wouldn’t expect a major turnaround in PC sales because of any such products. The solution — unless Intel has some secret sauce that we hear about next week — already exists with Bluestacks and yet PC sales are past their peak.
We’ll likely hear more on this next week, of course. And it’s possible that whatever is announced or demonstrated has some wow factor I haven’t thought of. But I don’t see this move as a saving grace for the WinTel PC market.
Instead, it looks more like Intel continuing to play the field and expand its options after deciding to support Android back in 2010. While the company is starting to get its chips in a few smartphones and tablets, the majority of mobile devices still run on ARM-based, not x86 chips.
Unfortunately, the PC market may be beyond saving in the traditional sense. As hardware and mobile apps continue to mature, it’s becoming easier to offload more tasks to tablets and even smartphones. Perhaps a “Dual OS” device will simply be Intel’s way to ease the transition while providing you the chips coming and going from a PC to a post-PC world.