Could Android ever become the dominant PC operating system?

by: Bogdan PetrovanJune 21, 2013

Friday Debate no text Evan Forester

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!

Nate Swanner

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.

Joe Hindy

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.

Samsung ATIV Q


Robert Triggs

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.

Adam Koeuider

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.

Transformer Book Trio Credit: Engadget


Can Android ever become the dominant PC operating system?

Join us in the comments and vote in our poll.

[poll id=”322″]

  • Bone

    No, but it doesn’t need to, PC is done for.

    • Ørjan Baglo

      How is PC done for? I am asuming that you mean windows since PC just means personal computer as in almost everything with memory and a proccesor. Windows does so many things that android and especially ios cannot do. There will always be a need for PCs they might change shape or operating system but they will always be!!

      • Bone

        I meant exactly what I wrote down. There will be no need for personal computer since all kinds of gadgets will do all things including a phone in your pocket, a watch and a smart glass on yourself, your television, your tablet/slider, your microwave oven. The only computer that still be in use will be work and not personal computer.

        • Ørjan Baglo

          A tablet slider is more an ultrabook than it is a tablet.

  • Benjamin Pavel

    Not in the current state.
    Maybe for a light laptop like Chrome Netbooks for a Internet browsing, multimedia and some office work but nothing more.

  • V.A.N.

    Yes. Of course Android can do it.

    Unlike Apple and Microsoft who had to de-develop their operating systems for mobile computing, Android would be developing UP for the desktop. There is still a need for desktop computer because of it’s computing power. However, what’s NOT NEEDED is that extra desktop or laptop in a home or office to perform simple functions and tasks. Rather a lighter, smaller, and long-lasting (Android) tablet will do.

    Android can become, what Ubuntu could never be….which is good. I’m sorry, but Ubuntu is a joke.

    Office Productivity software like Microsoft Office, will not be a problem for Android.However, if Android can get development commitment from Adobe, then it’s game set and match… Google. IMO, Adobe can do it. Anyone use Adobe Photoshop Touch?

    There are two types of consumers in the tech market: Specialists and “the masses.” If Android can win over the masses, then it can become the dominating PC Operating System.” in the market.

    • Anomyness

      Ubuntu is a joke because it brings Linux environment to people with little computer knowledge? Or because it has a huge community development system?? I believe personally that android would make a good operating system for today’s laptops. Today’s laptops are know becoming touch friendly and more mobile friendly then ever :) android has some con’s to just like windows or Ubuntu or even Macintosh. But android has many good pros too like if modded/developed right it could become the bridge from mobile computing to desktop computing having all you need runing off one device.

  • As someone who regularly uses an external keyboard and mouse with my tablet, I can say that it would need a lot of tweaking to work – atm basic things like being able to configure your keyboard layout (so no azerty and no configuring of special buttons) and consequent support of the scrollwheel are absent (scrollwheel depends from the app you’re using and scrolling by dragging the page with your mouse is hell).And it supports little “real” programs and games. So I’m sceptical.

  • Daniel

    I think it will happen. Google has said android laptops are coming, and my guess is Android 5.0 will include interface methods that better supports computer environments. It will be interesting to see how this changes.

  • Mitonline

    I don’t think cause is unable to run real work apps is more possible see all Windows OS (WP8/RT/W8) unified.

  • Mike Bastable

    As usual Joseph hits the nail on the head. Totally agree with him.

  • Mr. Magoo

    Android has been around for less than 5 yrs in the mainstream market and done more to the market since it’s inception than MAC and Windows have. I have always been a windows fan from childhood. Give Android 20 yrs to work on the OS and there’s no way it couldn’t be configured to beet both of them. I have an MK808 that’s been flashed with a finless rom that I use more now than my PC. Just a thought.

  • Chris Boots

    No because it’s simply not sophisticated enough

  • Matthew Wypyszinski

    android is a solid operating system, dont get me wrong. it will never be a good PC operating system though for the simple fact that you would have to change it so much that you might as well just go with a distro of ubuntu, because thats basically what your going to end up with. Android is not built to take advantage of massive computing power, its built to run efficiently with limited computing resources, doing a lot of its processing remotely. Compared with true PC operating systems android on PC right now is a joke.

  • Siralf

    I sincerely hope Google in the near future would release an OS for PC. I am pretty confident they can do it better than the rest, I mean, working better, looking better and adding some amazing possibilities no one before has ever thought of.

  • ash71ish

    I am 1000 % sure about android becoming dominant operating system.

  • Mike

    I already use my $50 Android stick attached to a TV to stream Netflix, check and answer e-mail, browse internet and Skype. All I really need is decent Office app.

  • William Worlde

    Now that I’ve stopped LMAO…

    It seems as though for an OS to become dominant on a desktop, it needs to have a single source of guiding directive, which Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s OS have.

    I believe it’s the reason why the Unix offspring are still niche deployments.

    Similarly, at this point in time, Android is too fractured.

    A heavy player like Samsung could become a prime director though (but we also thought the same thing about Red Hat many, many years ago).

    At this point in its life, Android is still not capable of playing with the grown-ups.

  • DanDingello

    I think it is really possible but it might take a little more time to be widely spread for people to accept it. This breakthrough would be really good since most of our phones today are run with android. App syncing would be top notch and to hell with paying for an OS!

  • Sal

    Hmm.. do we really need another desktop operating system? I’m not saying that Android can become a dominant os but not in the current state its in. I’m pretty sure users are happy with Windows, Mac and Linux that have been around for years. But i guess its worth a shot. Google make sure you spend plenty of time making android solid on a desktop if thats what you plan.

  • Steven

    Android is a Linux variant tailored to the needs of the mobile computing. There is no reason to power up it again to meet the requirements of the desktop computing, but it is possible though.

  • Michael Agyeman

    Of the Linux offspring, Android has the right idea. I’m just not sure if Android will be that bridging breakthrough, if it had meant to fill in this role, it would already have done so. I see it more as a stepping stone stage in the creation of a mobile-capable/office-useful OS hybrid. Maybe a combination of the original Ubuntu idea and Android? Working closer together? As opposed to dual booting

  • I am fed up of with Google taking over everything, but an open source project like Android that can work both on desktops and mobile devices I think is a great thing. Just don’t let Google stick their search and ads in it by default.