In this week’s Friday Debate, we discuss the potential of Android as a PC operating system. Could Android ever take the place of Windows, OSX, or Linux? Should Google even try to turn Android into an universal OS? What would be the pros and cons for using Android on computers?
Join us in the comments and vote in our poll!
I’m not a fan of Android being on a PC. The entire platform is geared toward mobility, and while most computers are portable, those don’t mean the same thing in this context.
This ends up being close to the same argument you have with Chrome OS. The main complaint there is the need for near constant connectivity. That doesn’t go away with Android on a PC; you still need a connection to make most apps and services work well.
To get a little deeper into that, let’s discuss productivity. If you compare Google Drive on both platforms, the ability to create and edit on Chrome OS is much better than on Android. You also run into the same arguments with software, in that you can’t load software onto the device.
While Android has more apps than its Chrome counterpart, it’s still no match when it comes to most productivity needs. Chrome OS is also no match for productivity when it comes to Windows or OSX, largely due to those software issue. Because PCs are more about productivity, Android on a PC is a step backwards.
It’s perfectly conceivable that Android could become a desktop OS. It has many of the basic stuff people already use desktops for. There’s web browsing, word processing, excel spreadsheets, media management, and even chat services. So for people who only do those things, they could switch to Android on PC today and be totally happy.
In terms of ergonomics, Android isn’t doing anything that desktop users haven’t seen for years. Putting icons on a home screen? Yep, except desktops usually only have one home screen (you can always add more if you need them). There is mechanisms like control panel to uninstall apps and choose your settings. We call it the Settings menu. At it’s core, there’s really nothing Android can’t do that most operating systems can’t do.
What they won’t find, and what ultimately would tank the idea if Android was a desktop OS, is the lack of specialized programs. No Photoshop, no Adobe AfterEffects, no Sony Vegas Pro, very little (if any) options for programming IDEs, and other things like that. If Android could bring these kinds of things into the ecosystem and make them work well, then Android could be a very fierce desktop competitor.
Of course there are other factors as well. Buying a quad core, 10.1″, top of the line Android tablet is nearly $800. You can still build a really awesome PC for that much with a larger display and more power in the CPU.
The only other thing that would require change is tweaks in the settings. Some more stuff for desktop (like multi-monitor support) and it can be quickly adapted.
I’m not saying it would be all that easy, because Microsoft still owns the desktop OS market, but with a few changes and a few additions, Android could take them on.
Can Android beat Windows, Linux, and OSX? I’d say of course it can, but it depends what at.
Nate is quite right when he says that Android is all about mobile workflow, and that Android simply isn’t geared towards productivity in quite the same way as say Windows is. Google would definitely need to make some big changes to the way Android works to make it comparable to Windows on a desktop.
Remember the wave of complaints from desktop users about the Windows 8 interface, which resulted in the re-introduction of the classic Start Button in the 8.1 update? Desktops these days are often about doing some serious work, and users often require quick access to options hidden under the hood, not just applications.
Android would need significantly updating to work with typical desktop accessories; printers, scanners, sound cards, dedicated graphics chips, multiple monitor setups, etc. These are all standard pieces of kit in a lot of offices and home setups which Android doesn’t work well with at the moment. But that’s not to say that it can’t be done.
Overall, I just don’t see Android heading to desktops any time soon, I don’t think it’s a worthwhile investment on Google’s part. That being said, Android does offer non-power users most of what they need, but these consumers have mostly migrated to laptops and tablets already. But with a few more minor tweaks, Android could certainly compete in the laptop market where it’s a much more even playing field between the big companies.
Apple and Microsoft have been tweaking the desktop OS for years now, and even they are trying to move their OS’s towards the mobile front. Android is king of the mobile market, yet trying to make it do two things at once hardly ever works out well.
Look at the Windows OEMs, they are all moving towards using Android in a dual-OS system for their hybrids. Windows 8 failed at combining mobile and desktop because they are two different things.
When I go on my phone it’s to listen to music, when I go on my computer it is to create music. When I go on my tablet it’s to read a novel, when I go on my computer it’s to (try, it never works out) write a novel. They are two different entities and Microsoft needs to understand that, and do that rather than staple a mobile OS (Metro UI) to a desktop OS, and call it a day.
As to what Android needs to be a viable desktop OS. Well a full-fat version of Google Drive would be a great start, and the full, flash capable, version of Chrome would further Android’s appeal.
There are other apps sure, but in the end I’d much prefer Chrome OS to blossom than Android to try to do two things at once. Because what usually happens is that either mobile users will suffer or desktop users will suffer.
Can Android ever become the dominant PC operating system?
Join us in the comments and vote in our poll.