Is Android ready to conquer the desktop?

by: Adam KoueiderMay 6, 2013

Asus Transformer Prime

If you believe any of the rumors, then Android is coming to the desktop. Intel, a major player in the PC market has confirmed to Cnet its interest in bringing laptops running Android as the operating system. However, the question must be raised, is Android capable of being a desktop operating system?

The PC is NOT dead

No matter how much people say it is, the PC is not dead, it’s just in an evolutionary stage of development. Those drumming up extinction propaganda always link us to dropping sales, but that was always going to happen as the market saturated. Sure the iPad and Android tablets may have accelerated the drop in sales, but it was always coming.

People are still going to need a desktop PC, or at least a laptop, after all, physical keyboards are just better than onscreen keyboards, and a trackpad or mouse will always beat touchscreens when accuracy is a necessity. Maybe for some, a tablet or even a phone could replace a computer for their computing needs, but for a large percentage of people a computer will still be necessary. With that out of the way, we can move on to Android itself as a desktop operating system.

The best mobile OS for the desktop

Out of all of the current mobile operating systems, Android is the only one that could be implemented as a desktop OS. iOS simply can’t, at least not in its current form. The lack of multi-user support and multitasking features hold it back, so for those hoping for a MacPad Air, keep dreaming.

Blackberry 10 and Windows Phone will both never look to make the leap to the desktop (although Windows Phone does share many kernel similarities with Windows 8) so that leaves Android as the last man standing. Android has support for multi-users, it has “true” multitasking and is also open for tweaking. If any mobile OS is going to make a move for the desktop it’s Android.

Google Docs

Document creation is one of the biggest elements of a desktop operating system, in fact it’s possibly the biggest element. Microsoft build its desktop empire through Microsoft Office and 30 years later, still nothing can touch Microsoft Office. Google’s response to Office, Google Docs is a decent application, that for the average user could actually be considered better than Office. Sure, the hardcore Excel users won’t be able to use Docs as a standalone application, but for the rest of us Docs is good enough.

Google Docs For Android

It allows you to create documents, slideshows, spreadsheets, collaborate, access your creations anywhere with Internet, share easily and did I mention it’s free. However, Google Drive (the application that now harbors Docs) is pathetically behind even its web compatriot. In fact it might just be the worst Google-made mobile application, it’s slow and feature-less and it won’t even allow you to create documents without Internet access. For Android to be a viable option for the desktop, the Drive application needs a major revamp. Of course Microsoft could itself be the solution, as rumours are pointing towards a release of Office for Android and iOS by the end of the year.

Chrome and the web

There’s no point dodging the fact that Chrome is another Android application that Google needs to work on. Scrolling issues not-withstanding, Chrome on Android needs major work for it to be the browser of choice on an Android based desktop OS. People are going to disagree, but Chrome on a laptop needs flash. Flash may be buggy and prone to crashes, but there are millions of sites that still use it and will continue to use it. Then there are all the performance issues, so maybe another browser like Dolphin would be a better choice.

The rest of the apps

As you might of guessed already, applications will make or break Android as a desktop OS. I’ve already mentioned two of the biggest desktop applications in an Internet browser and documents creator, but what of the rest?

Popular apps like Adobe Photoshop, a picture editing application, Fruity Loops, a popular music creator/editor and Sony Vegas, a popular pro application for video editing, are some of the more important applications on the desktop. Luckily, there is a Photoshop Touch application available in the Play Store and a recently released Fruity Loops app as well. The only thing missing from this trifecta of popular applications is Sony Vegas, but there are already some decent video editing applications in the Play Store.


Gaming is also brilliant in the Play Store. Sure, you aren’t getting Skyrim quality, but mobile gaming has improved tremendously over the past few years and games like Real Racing 3 and Nova 3 are pushing mobile gaming to new heights. Popular desktop games like Minecraft and Plants vs Zombies are also available on the Play Store so gaming shouldn’t be a problem for the average user.

The user interface

Android was designed for touch, not for a mouse or trackpad. My past experiences using the trackpad on an Asus Transformer Prime have been awkward and not at all fluid, so the UI would need improvement. This brilliant video, showcases what is possible with Android on the desktop using nothing but a Galaxy Note 2, monitor, keyboard and mouse and a HDMI cable. Sure some of the elements are from TouchWiz, but they shouldn’t be difficult to implement and there are already some applications that have the same functionality as TouchWiz features. Check it out for a more in-depth picture of Android as a desktop operating system and pay close attention to the UI.

Wrap up

For now, Google has its support planted firmly in the Chrome OS corner for the desktop. But not even Google would be able to stop a big player like Intel making a play with Android as a desktop operating system. Android is definitely capable of being a desktop OS, however, whether anybody would be interested is another question.

Would you be interested in an Android-powered laptop?

  • Ivan Myring


  • magnifico17

    the fact is has all it takes to evolve into a desktop operating system.the odds will definitely militate against this to capture the market and divert attention will be the major odds to consider

  • Arsenal™

    umm nope unless all the essentials that make up windows are there in android as well

    • Ivan Myring

      What would they be then?

      • or at least android should be as good as Linux distros like Ubuntu and fedora.
        the only problem with android now is – lots of toy apps or lack of power apps.

        • yomachaser

          What kind of functionality are you not finding in android? It’s met my needs in pretty much every regard so far.

          • you can’t find multi windows multi-tasking in android. + no power apps, most app are simplified apps.. for example compare pc version of Photoshop and tablet version, same with FL Studio.
            even compare libre office or some office app of android.

            Linux distros like Ubuntu, fedora has more possibility to rise in desktop.

      • I guess you don’t use windows.
        We’re talking about 40 full-featured apps on all my systems from video, audio, graphics, text, disk cloning, ftp and more.. Sure not every user needs these, but most people install apps that do cool stuff, even my mom and her photo-card-creation

  • blueseeker

    Yep. I actually prefer Android instead of Ubuntu, which is too buggy thanks to nVidia.

  • Look its simple, straight forward and intuitive. No fancy tricks it just works on my Note 2 brilliantly.

  • RobertMahoney

    Yup! Was at Best Buy over the weekend and was looking at the Chrome book and the Samsung Note 8 and said to my wife I wish they made the Android OS on a laptop as a netbook.

  • David Li

    Not till it can play crysis 3

    • Adam Koueider

      nVidia Shield 2.0 for you my friend.

      • keep dreaming my friend

    • Ivan Myring

      You have like a 2 year wait. Given that the Xbox 360 can run it, and if you had a specialised android desktop with good cooling, it will probably be about 2 years

  • Will Stewart

    I think Android desktops are a great idea. What Google needs to do is merge Android & Chrome OS together and create a powerful combo to take on Windows on desktops.

  • xowu

    We will have one OS that works on Desktop, mobile and tablet. And it is capable to run everything, its secured and fast. His name is Ubuntu

    • Zero0


      I’m currently using Linux Mint only because I don’t have the time to install something else. It’s too unstable for my tastes. Ubuntu is the same. Things lock up, audio and trackpad like to disappear after sleep. Also, Unity is disgusting, in my opinion. Multitasking is a pain.

      Once I get a couple of days to mess around, I’m going to switch my distro for something more stable.

      • Pankaj

        Thats all personal preference my friend and for average ppl who buy PC only For day to day work yes i feel in coming years we can see cheap desktop running android.
        For Gammer as the tech moves ahead we will have more things cming in later years. and so for developers

        Always Remember when PC also Started With Command line interface moved to GUI as we see today it took years to reach where they are now

  • willwright

    “Is Android ready to conquer the desktop?”
    Are you kidding ?


    not until they release Visual Studio for Android. seriously.

    • flamencoguy

      VS is for developers only. Most users are not developers. It won’t happen overnight definitely. But Android desktops or notebooks will be cheaper than Windows cause you won’t be charged for the OS.

      Yes and those tools will come in time. It will be great to see a unified OS for all platforms, mobile, tablets, desktops, notebooks and fully integrated and synced

  • android is still below average to be a desktop, all the above point you said is done easily on mobile, desktop is generally use for hardcore work like gaming on high end machine , doing on all the photoshop creativity , movie editing large files ,and best of all you can make your own desktop with different configuration you want which is not available on android. I hate to say this article is totally baseless , proves nothing and please dont compare desktop games to mobile games , i know average consumer will not play this games ,but android games are nothing infront of them.

    • yomachaser

      I’m sorry but the average user does none of what you said with a computer. They use it for even less functionality than a mobile OS offers so for sure they could live happily in an android desktop.

      High end computer gaming is done by a scant few percent of total buyers of computers.

      • I can understand your point ,but i am not talking about gaming other professional application are there which many people use ,for eg, microsoft office,many people are overwhemled by its functionality they dont want to switch windows or want to buy windows for this software only, this just one example there are many more like this.

    • Axel Yates

      pc’s won’t stay around solely because you play higher-end games on them. with 8 core phones it’s only a matter of time until Android and Chrome OS merge. How and when who knows? But it is inevitable.

      • David Li

        The samsung chromebook and the nexus 10 already use the same processor

      • google is not gonna merge chrome and android , google wants to make chrome cloud computing device only.

  • Sesquatch1

    What still disturbs me is that there seems to be no easy way of changing the dpi of the screen when switching to an external monitor. as a result all screen elements are huge…

  • Midgeslayer

    I have been using my Samsung Note 2 with its multimedia dock, a wireless keyboard and mouse and I am amazed by how much I can get done using it. Looking forward to getting a DVI to HDMI adapter so I can try it on my desktop screen. I have had an Asus Transformer TF300t and I found it sluggish, cramped and heavy. The Note 2 specs make it very quick by comparison. I am writing this on the Samsung ARM Chromebook which is great as an instant-on device. I much prefer it to any tablets I have owned (gotta have a propa keyboard). What I would love is Android on the same form factor. I find a touch pad or mouse more than adequate and preferable to having to prod the screen like Guy the Gorilla (famous London Zoo resident). So yes please, Android laptops. I think they would be a great companion device to a full fat laptop or desktop, not a total replacement. Tablets?! Meh!

  • “People are still going to need a desktop PC, or at least a laptop, after all, physical keyboards are just better than onscreen keyboards, and a trackpad or mouse will always beat touchscreens when accuracy is a necessity.”

    Now you do realize that Android is fully capable of a mouse and keyboard right? I believe that we will start seeing docking stations for mobile devices(tablets mostly) that will work just like laptop docking stations. The only thing holding back mobile devices from replacing desktops in the home is the applications. Once those catch up to Windows applications, and they are rapidly making progress, we will see personal desktops fall to mobile devices with a docking station.

    • Adam Koueider

      Yes I do realize that Android is capable of supporting mice and keyboards. Unfortunately, a mouse/trackpad and keyboard experience on Android is considerably worse than on OSX/Windows. I’ve owned an Asus Transformer and have found the experience sub par to say the least.

      For example: half of the games aren’t properly formatted for keyboards. Watch the video and you’ll get a good idea of gaming on Android. Again a docking station is the future as stated in the video with the Galaxy Note 2 (Imagine a Snapdragon 800 in that beast and 3GB RAM).

  • ” there are already some decent video editing applications in the Play Store. ”
    please name few, couldn’t find any decent editors.

  • shane

    What will us developers use to code on? Windows 8 tabs? Macbookpros? Can we run the android SDK on android? Untill I can use android to develop on android. Full desktop like functionality will be required.

    • yomachaser

      For coders and power users the answer is an immediate no, but for common task users like browsing,netflix and light gaming I would lean to yes.

  • Android is still not ready to make the move to “desktop” much less be a major player. It has made some progress but has a number of glaring flaws that have yet to be resolved from over two years ago.

  • CyBrix_21

    A simple point:

    For now, Android is not good enough to be a primary computer…

    But I’m sure it is the best solution when you need to do some heavy tasks while computers are not around…

    We still need desktop computers…

  • vampyren

    Question is do we want this? The answer for me is a definite NO
    They are good for different things, like on my PC using windows 8 i want to have the flexibility to do heavy gaming, photoshop, little of development, using the kick ass CPU/GPU. Now on Android i use it mainly for reading web, small gaming and maybe netflix. Its not feasible to expect everything from a phone OS. Its not made for it. I can see the appeal to have a dock for my Galaxy S4 so i can get a bigger screen and keyboard at home and still use it for something more like working on google docs or gaming but it will never have the same power as a regular PC not should it. And as for Chome OS its crap, i hate the idea to be tide to internet for doing work. I’m just not fond of the whole cloud thing. It has its uses of course but not the the extend that i can do any work without internet, its just giving away your freedom and flexibility i think.

  • first one to merge desktop and phone OS into 1 will rule them all

  • William

    I agree 100% that PC’s are not dead, nor ever will be. There’s still a lot of job applications that just aren’t feasible on a tablet. Plus there are games too big or complex for tablets.

  • Ovi

    I will always have a powerful PC for the occasional gaming so I can play at max settings, for more complex tasks and for photo/video editing and the myriad of programs that are Windows only.

    I have been using a Transformer Infinity since it came out and I sold my laptop 2 weeks later; never looked back. :)

    Replacing the desktop is obviously not a reality. Maybe a second desktop and definitely a laptop :P

  • Does anyone give a crap about Android desktop? I’ll buy the same thing as Windows 7/8 and have tons of apps I want, for free, working nicely. Same goes for Mac. Android and cheezy, slimline apps with 4 configuration settings and little more, sorry Google, keep searching.

    • Sergio

      Open Source community loves Android, and Google loves Open Source. It would take only some time until we would see great apps like Gimp, Maya, Libreoffice, etc., with improved UI into an Android Desktop designed device. The same would happen with your “slimline apps with 4 configuration settings” and many others. With Android Studio, Google is showing its interest in helping developers do a great job in adaptive apps for phones, tablets and (I’m pretty sure of that) in a not too far future, TV and desktop. It’s only a matter of time to grow Android a little bit more and find the correct UI. This is the biggest challenge: find THE way to combine touch+mouse+physical keyboard and make it consistent with mobile UI. Maybe 2-3 years, but we’ll see it, absolutely.

  • avarakin

    Linus maybe hates Java, but android shows that java in good hands is pretty capable. Also i think that the year when linux will win desktop will be when android wins desktop. I am ubuntu fan for 5 years but i must admit that its current state is pitiful and i am looking forward to android winning desktop.