Is Android ready to conquer the desktop?

May 6, 2013
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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.

adobe-photoshop-touch-phone

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?

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