Will Android 5.0 feature improved desktop capabilities?

by: LucianMay 23, 2012


Google has struck gold with Android. It’s the most popular mobile operating system, and, thanks to its open source nature and the growth of smartphones and tablets, one day it might even be the most popular operating system, period.

This is something Google has been craving for a long time. For the biggest part of the last decade, Microsoft was Google’s main competitor, much like Facebook considers Google their main competitor today, or at least a company they would very much like to “beat”. So the Mountain View-based giant has been trying for quite a while now to develop its own universal OS, hoping that, one day, it will weaken Microsoft’s dominance.


Google has tried to conquer the desktop space with ChromeOS, but, so far, it hasn’t had much luck. In part, that is because people are still not completely sold on the “all you need is the web” vision. Among the reasons for this reluctance we can count the facts that we’re barely just getting LTE now, unlimited data plans are becoming a rarity, and, very importantly, the price for ChromeOS devices just isn’t right.

To some, a Chromebook seems even less useful than a netbook, so the $400 price tag for one doesn’t make much sense. Google repeated the mistake they did with Google TV, when instead of going with much cheaper ARM chips, they chose the more expensive Intel ones. The second time in a row they failed mostly because of the pricing. Hopefully, they won’t make the same mistake again this summer — there are rumors that we’ll see a Chromebook made by Samsung, based on an Exynos 5250 chip. But it remains to be seen if Samsung will price it right. They are not very well known for pricing something as cheaply as possible.


Android is already a very popular OS, but it’s primarily a smartphone OS, and then a tablet one. It will take quite a leap to make it a desktop OS, as well, but I think that’s where Google is heading with Android 5.0 (not necessarily Jelly Bean, just whatever they will be launching this fall).

But I wonder how they will tackle the issue of having a “similar” UI across form factors. In general, you don’t want the UI to be exactly the same across the board, because, at least on some form factors, the UI will come out as un-optimized. Take Windows 8 for example. Because Microsoft wanted to have the same UI everywhere, and they first focused on the tablet form factor, the UI is very poor for the desktop now.

To extent, the same can be said about Ubuntu, too, but the problem is much smaller there. Pretty much the most annoying thing about cross-platform Ubuntu is the fact that you have a sidebar instead of a bottom bar, but that’s about it.

The bottom line is Google can’t just use the exact same UI on phones, tablets, and desktops. ICS works well on phones, works on on tablets, and it’s not too bad in desktop mode either, but the experience could be much improved there.

So how will they do this? Will Larry Page and co. be the ones to find the “perfect” middle ground between all these devices? Is such a thing even possible?

UI Add-ons

Personally, I’d prefer if they made the multiple versions look as close as possible in styling and theme, but actually have a “phone mode”, a “tablet mode” and a “desktop mode”. I’d like the UI to be very well optimized for each form factor, to squeeze the most utility out of it. So for phones you’d have something like you do now, for tablets something like Chameleon, and for desktop, something like everyone is used to using on a desktop.

They could do this by making “UI add-ons” on top of the core of Android, that have resemble each other at a high level, but also take full advantage of the form factor they run on. So, if you’d have an Android phone, you could dock it to a tablet or PC monitor and be able to choose between the Phone, Tablet and PC modes.

This is just something that I would prefer. What’s the most likely thing to happen? They will probably just improve the ICS UI on a  tablet to be more useful in desktop mode and look more “at home” on a PC, without compromising too much of the tablet UI. The other alternative is that they will merge ChromeOS with Android, and the user will be able to switch between them. This would be a lot easier to do with Samsung’s Exynos 5250, which thanks to the Cortex A15 architecture, will feature hardware virtualization, making it easy to run two operating systems at the same time.

What do you think Google will bring to Android 5.0 to make it more desktop-friendly, or what else should they be doing to make that possible?

  • Butts_McButts

    Being able top run apps in windows will be the making of Android. And not just in crappy widget form either.

  • Benjamen Meiers

    I can’t wait for a merge between Chrome OS and Android. People at Google said that it is inevitable that it will happen. If they said that 2 years ago, i’m sure people are working on it.

    Personally, I think what would be best would be Chrome OS for Desktop with extra frameworks so that Android applications could run on it. Currently Chrome OS is not a full-featured OS, so Google will need to expand on functionality first. Also the hardware drivers need to be sorted, anyone on Linux knows how horrible it is waiting for a driver and when it finally comes its buggy as hell.

    • jammo

      i think most basic users, and they make up the majority of the buyers think chrome os synonymous with the chrome browser,
      if i were google, i will take out whats good in chrome os and put it into android and tweak it to perfection and call it android desktop. why?
      simply because android has been a success and will continue to be so whereas chrome os had been a failure.

  • Djf

    They all make the same mistake.

    Should have a simple original “Google” like interface that is clean and bare bones. Probably easier to make it work across all form factors.

    Then they can let the idiots at gnome3 and windows and unity – create flashy app add on’s which make the user do what they want – to their hearts content.

    With the caveat that the user can push a bare-bones button and immediately go back to plain jane – so s/he can be productive once again.

    This is how the google browser became number one!

  • If it will be more desktop friendly then it will be ok to me but I need an Android Messenger in it like BBM. Free android to android messages, photos, videos etc.

    • Timothy McGovern

      Google Voice is like an android messenger. it just doesn’t have video and pictures yet.

      • josh

        google talk? am i missing something?

        • Timothy McGovern

          I think they’re eventually going to combine all their messaging services sort of how facebook combined their chat and messaging. I could be wrong though.

  • AppleFUD

    I like the idea of Chrome OS and have been watching it from the start however, I’ve also argued that it should be nothing more than a side project for Google to integrate Chrome into Android along with other necessary security and desktop features to take Android from phone to desktop.

    Currently Android 4.0 can function pretty well as a desktop OS for a “basic user.” Also, there are apps that allow windowing on Android and Samsung has done this as well which makes Android even more capable for desktop related work. Furthermore, Android apps now have the framework to utilize screen real estate efficiently to scale form phone to HDTV — this is a key element people constantly overlook about Android. The fact that devs can develop a single app that will work with fragments to utilize screen real estate up to big 55″+ screen and Android will handle the resolution issues as well, should not be overlooked.

    Android is poised to become THE next dominant platform, if Google doesn’t hold it back. They held it back before — Google wanted Chrome OS on tablets till OEMs forced the issued and Google caved and made Honeycomb. This shows Google is NOT getting ‘it’ — the fact that Chrome OS is a dead horse and Android is capable to go everywhere quickly. Google is still fragmenting their talent and focus by backing Chrome OS instead of biting the bullet and doing whatever needs to be done to get Android desktop capable and give their full attention to *ONE unified* platform.

    They finally got the clue and brought ‘Google TV’ into the Android fold. . . now they need to kill Chrome OS and get focused on Android everywhere! Otherwise there is no point because, mobile devices will soon be far more powerful than the average user needs for all their computing tasks and someone (most likely MS with Win8) will look to have a *unified OS* everywhere.

    • The thing is that they already have Chrome in Android now, so what exactly are the benefits for keeping both, other than the fact that ChromeOS as a whole OS is more optimized for the desktop experience?

      They might want to dual boot them both, but why do that and not just use Android’s Chrome? Is the extra security in ChromeOS worth that separation? And can’t they just use most of that for Android, too? These are questions that hopefully will be answered at Google I/O next month.

      • AppleFUD

        I really don’t see a point of them keeping both. Maybe for testing and experimenting, etc. . . or to keep the dream alive that all will use web apps all the time.

        I don’t see the point of a dual boot, just launch Chrome lol

        I hope they answer some of the questions. . . but I’m with you on this. While Chrome OS is an interesting project it needs to stay as that, a project, and they need to focus on Android for desktop just as they did for tablets.

    • jeri

      I am looking forward to see Adobe Creative Suite on my Android Tablet.

  • Anon

    I would say they should take a page out of the Gnome Project’s book. Gnome 3 is quite interesting. Though it could use a little work it would make a nice interface on a desktop and maybe even a tablet. though I doubt the phone side would work out to well.

  • Rodrigo E. De León Plicet

    I believe Google should be able to scale the Android UI, both up and down, to make it as future proof as possible.

    I visualize using only the phone or tablet as your main device (casual gaming, social, etc.), and taking advantage of the features (monitor, keyboard, mice, upgraded graphics & sound, etc.) provided by the docking station, for all other things (serious gaming, work, etc.).

    The future cannot arrive fast enough…

  • cbstryker

    “This would be a lot easier to do with Samsung’s Exynos 5250, which thanks to the Cortex A15 architecture, will feature hardware virtualization, making it easy to run two operating systems at the same time.”

    This isn’t necessary to run two OSes at the same time. If both systems are Linux then just one kenel is needed with the two user lands. That’s what Canonical is doing with Ubuntu on Android.

    • That’s a good point for when you want to dock the phone and get the “other OS” in desktop mode. I was mainly thinking they might want some kind of dual boot with Chrome OS and Android, though, but without having to reboot the device, just easily switch between them.

  • Josiah120

    Under UI Add-Ons what is that device called that they are using to attach the phone to the monitor and where can i get it from?

  • dilharo

    Ha ha author dont know any thing about google………
    1.google is a web based company…cloud is what google wants
    2.they will only put chrome on larger monitors and not android
    3.android will run on smartphones only
    4.tablet optimized 4.2 ics version will come first
    5.android 5.o with jello will run chrome on monitors if you plug hdmi or dock connected…

    so 5.o=chrome everywhere with web apps

    • AppleFUD

      No doubt Google wants everyone to live in/on the internet cloud, but that isn’t happening and most likely won’t for some time. Chrome apps suck compared to Android or native. it just isn’t there yet and while Google might want to wait for that OEMs don’t and Google **may, just may**, get smart enough to realize that it’s better to have some control over the dominating platform and let it be Android everywhere than let MS dominate again. . .

      Examples of the OEMs not waiting for Google: Moto Webtop and now Canonical shoehorning Ubuntu onto Android. I’m expecting even more advancement in this area form OEMs if Google doesn’t step up.

      And if Google doesn’t do it with Android RIM with QNX/BB10 + Citrix Receiver are nearly there: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sc7V_gV-mtM

  • tBs_Battousai

    I really hope they do put it on a desktop with a desktop UI, I can’t wait till I can get rid of Windows as the UI for Windows 8Server 2012 is shocking…

  • MarcTabor

    Desktop? maybe.. depends on the game support ;) I have been trying to shoehorn 4.0 ICS x86 android into my Dell Mini 9, love the interface and 98% of everything about it. I can even live without the touch screen. Its the lack of Video, Flask and sound in support that was the brick wall for me ;( now im trying to put an android interface over the top of a Ubuntu install. The ability to do a lot of navigation via arrows instead of touch pad is what i found appealing i think. just dont know if i would be that enthused about it on a desktop

  • sandnessen

    I would reeeeeally like if there was a way to have java on tablets. I don’t know if to buy an Asus Transformer Prime TF700T or an Asus UX31A (just around the corner) as my HP laptop starting to get old. Not caring about the price gap. I’m not gaming a lot, but I would like to have the choice of gaming some MW3 or at least runescape at some few times. What to do?:S Is there any way AT ALL to play java games on a tablet such as the Asus TF700T, without going trough another PC? Thanks!:D

    • Sandnessen

      Oh, never mind… Asus just unveiled its Transformer Book.
      *throws credit card at screen*

  • vladostro

    I think it makes a lot of sense for Google to do this for one simple reason – most of their revenue still comes from the desktop web.

  • Mschramm

    What is the wallpaper you are using? Could you please tell us where you got it from?


  • Klaine

    Do something special for Mac users who have been using Android — otherwise youre gonna push them to iphones…Believe it or not, theres a lot of people…Ive spoken to Google executives – who use Macs…And theres a special Android File Transfer for those users

  • As it stands, using Android with a mouse and keyboard isn’t bad. I was surprised how usable it is. As far as mouse and keyboard support go, the only thing really missing is for right-click to bring up the long-press menu.

    There’s a bit of a tendency to have fewer controls on the screen, and have some things be a few layers down. Compare phone and tablet layouts of the Chrome browser, for example. The forward/back buttons disappear into a menu in the phone version. For a desktop-sized monitor, especially with a mouse attached, even more controls should be made visible.

    The main thing holding back Android at this point is the lack of a good split-screen multi-tasking mode. That’s key for larger screens, and even useful on 5-10″ screens as well. Samsung is already showing the viability of the concept in TouchWiz on the Note, both 5″ and 10″.

    I’d also like to see support for external monitors with higher than 1080p resolution, but I’m in a minority there. The vast majority of TVs and monitors are supported just fine with 1080p over MHL or micro HDMI. I just happen to have a 2560×1440 monitor at home, which my Nexus 10 runs at a disappointing and ugly 720p over the micro HDMI port.