Would Android laptops have what it takes to invade Microsoft’s last bastion?

by: Rob TriggsJune 8, 2013

Android Laptop

I’m not going to rehash the old “Android is better than Windows” arguments. Instead, I propose that Android is actually poised to steal Microsoft’s last remaining stronghold, the laptop market, and that it won’t even require consumers to think about their preferred operating system. We all know that Google has already tested the laptop waters with the Chromebook, but it’s not really taken off, and even so, Android and Chrome provide two clearly unique experiences, so let’s examine how Android might fair in the laptop market.

Intel has already announced a range of $200 Android powered notebooks, which will place Android on an even playing field with traditional Microsoft products in terms of hardware. Samsung and other manufacturers are expected to be bringing Android notebook and laptop products to market later this year.

We’ve also heard rumors that the next major version of Android (possibly 5.0) could include additional features for laptop users, rather than focusing on the traditional mobile features. This is a trend which started with the addition of multi-user support for tablets in the Jelly Bean update, and it seems likely that at some point Google will want to go after Apple and Microsoft when it comes to higher-end hardware. But we currently don’t know what new features will be included in the new version of Android, if the rumor turns out to be true, so it’s hard to tell whether or not Android will truly provide a superior experience on laptops than Windows 8.

There are definitely signs that Google is interested in testing the laptop market, so what does this mean for Google’s competitors? Would Android succeed in this market?

Hardware and performance

The laptop market has remained relatively stable despite the growth in the tablet market, mainly because it offers consumers a more powerful platform which is more suited to business than a tablet. Typing documents, for example, is perfect on a laptop, but touch screens and smaller displays prevent tablets from really being ideal for this. The days of OS specific software are over, but Android doesn’t yet compete with Microsoft at the hardware level. Tablet hardware is rather weak compared with mid-range and high-end laptops, they simply aren’t offering the level of processing powered needed for a work station, yet.

the days of OS specific software are over, but Android doesn't yet compete with Microsoft at the hardware level

Intel’s new Pentium and Celeron Silvermont processors, which have been announced for Android, will offer Android laptop manufacturers a range of flexible and performance competitive processors. Without the performance limitations of current mobile processors, Android will finally be able to take on Microsoft in the higher-end performance market, an area in which Microsoft hasn’t had any real competition in before, at least not in the same price bracket.

There’s also a large amount of interest surrounding 2-in-1 laptop and tablet combination devices, which Intel has indicated as a key product range that will be implementing its upcoming Bay Trail mobile processors.

Lenovo Ideapad Yog

2-in-1 laptops will offer consumers tablets that are better suited to more complicated and business-orientated tasks. Image source: Telegraph

We know that Bay Trail, which will be powering some of these hybrid laptops, will be making its way to Android devices, as well as Windows machines, just like the previous Clover Trail chips. This could be another product line-up which could put Android in the sights of business and power users. My suspicion here is that Android will provide a much better user experience, as it’s well established in the tablet market, and will also have a better start out of the gate in this market than Windows, due to its current dominance over Microsoft in the tablet market.

Microsoft is currently languishing behind Apple and Android with just 7.3% of the tablet market, which isn’t terrible considering how late the company was to the party. But Android’s market share could further increase when these new devices hit the market. That’s not to say that Microsoft won’t be competitive in this market, but I’m reluctant to back the underdog when Android already has a firm grip on tablets.

Intel is clearly keen to diversify away from the struggling Microsoft brand; it would be bad business-sense to tie the entire future of your business into a single company, see Nokia for example. This offers Android a good opportunity to capitalise on a new hardware market. If Android can start securing decent shares of these upcoming products, then it could signal the start of a gradual push into Microsoft’s territory.

It’s all about price

Price is another huge point. This is one of the major reasons why Apple’s Macs were never a huge threat to Microsoft, as they are massively expensive by comparison. Android on the other hand has no such qualms about “appearing cheap.” It simply competes based on the valuation of the hardware, and without licensing fees it stands to beat Microsoft at that game as well.

Windows 8 laptops-w600

Windows 8 laptops tend to start anywhere above $300, but Android looks to be undercutting this price.

The $200 Intel notebooks, which are heading our way at some point later this year, represent a real threat to Microsoft’s tablets that are already a bit more expensive. If you’re looking for a computer for all the basic stuff, which tends to be the target audience for notebooks, then there’s very little reason not to choose an Android device, as consumers probably won’t be requiring any Windows-specific software.

Similarly the 2-in-1 tablet devices are expected to ship for somewhere around $399, which is a very competitive price in the laptop market. However, at slightly higher price points, Android will have to be able to compete with Microsoft on software. New operating system features would certainly help, but software-wise there’s not really much to chose between the two anymore, at least when it comes to the general consumer.

  • http://twitter.com/YourManAdrian [A]dri[A]n

    What would be the difference between an Android laptop and a Android tablet with a keyboard? I feel like they would almost be the exact same thing. Other than the fact that the laptop I’m sure would have better specifications. But I feel as if the user experience would be far too similar to be enticed to purchase an Android laptop. That’s just my opinion though.

    • MasterMuffin

      Exactly. I’d just install Linux mint or Ubuntu or something to an Android laptop if possible

    • emanuele_zanetti

      maybe, if something like Android laptops will ever be available in the future, the “laptop interface” could be different from the phone/tablet interface to improve the experience with regular keyboard and mouse, I would like to see something like this, maybe a ChromeOS-ish interface, I don’t know.

    • moron above

      Duh, what are you smoking? Of course the Intel laptop will not have a touch screen, it will be a cheap TN panel, while the hybrid will have a good panel with good viewing angles, and twice the price.

      • ta2025

        Remember the Nexus 7 has a great touch screen, 10 hours of battery and costs $199.

        • windowns

          Sigh…. What’s the point.. Enjoy your nexus 7 laptop

  • http://www.dsaif.com/ Saif

    Google, give me an Android laptop with Photoshop, Android Studio etc and take my money!!!

    • ta2025


      • Adrian Remus

        I read all of your comments on this article. Amen amen amen. Are you part of some religion that involves google? Really, you talk about Android like it’s Jesus coming back …

  • MasterMuffin

    The only place where Android laptops could sell is budget market. I don’t see a big future for Android laptops, they’ll probably end being at the same numbers as Linux and OSX (at most). Just my opinion

    • emanuele_zanetti

      I don’t think Android will ever totally overcome Microsoft in the laptop market, but I think that the mid-range buyer (i.e. someone that uses his/her laptop to do basic stuff, no high-end videogames, no professional softwares that require lots of calculation power, etc..) it would be a really good deal. yes, it will place in a kind-of-budget market, but just because they will have only what they need, not because they will be poor in quality. anyway, I think this is not the time yet, Android (or Chrome OS) needs to be more mature, then we will see..

      • fandroid98

        I dunno.. How many people truly rely on Microsoft Windows.. Even if it takes off in the budget and basic non professional range, who’s to say that Adobe and others won’t start porting software to it?

  • GG

    This post suffers from fan-boy blindness. I use Linux on my laptop and Android on my cellphone, and have been looking at the market for some years now. The operating system-specific app is far from dead. In fact, if it were actually dead, Linux could have overtaken Windows in the laptop market years ago. The truth is MS Office is, because of format incompatibilities and feature limitations, a must for business-oriented work. Google Drive is just not there yet. Neither is graphic manipulation software and I’m sure many other specialized software offerings. That being said, If Google could improve on these issues, and offer a plus (such as making all of it’s tablets “laptop transformers” by providing cheap keyboards and mouses), then I would definitively see a market for that. What could really be the cherry on top of the cake, would be for Android to offer full support for Linux apps. That would be a real deal-sealer, specially with the recent addition of steam support for Linux (although that would indeed require better Android hardware).

  • Alex Ohannes

    The Transformer line comes to mind here…

    • winDowns syndrome

      You missed the point, the transformers are severely underpowered. You could even add a keyboard to the Xperia tablet Z and get a very powerful alternative but it’s still well below the performance of Intel’s android laptops.

      • ta2025

        the newly announced Transformer, based on the Tegra 4 with HD screen, 2 GB RAM and 10 hour battery will not be “underpowered”

        • winDowns

          Funny then that Tegra3 was also gonna be powerful, but in real life the tf300 and other Tegra3 tablets was not even able to surf simple web pages due to massive stuttering and freezes. Tablet Z will remain the fastest real life performer among ARM tablets.

          • ta2025

            Totally false. There is nothing at all wrong with the Tegra 3. Many things can cause android to stutter as with Windows 8 and IOS and any other OS. Android itself is more to blame than the chipset. I had a TF300 and thoroughly enjoyed it. I sold it to someone else that would enjoy it as I was using my Nexus 7 much more – also Tegra 300. Works perfectly.

  • Sam Fuchs

    YES. Take my money, if this happens, i’m in.

  • 윌 스튜어트

    Windows 8 is an ugly mess – that is why I think Android laptops/tablets with keyboards have got a future. What Google needs to do is make Android more laptop friendly in its next iteration and merge Android & Chrome OS.

    • Andrew Baxendale

      Everything you just said is completely wrong.
      – Windows 8 is not an ugly mess
      – Android laptops, as of now, have very little future
      – Google should NOT merge Chrome OS and Android. Those two OSs should stay away from each other (besides syncing and a good ecosystem).

      • 윌 스튜어트

        And everything you just said made me facepalm.

        – Windows 8 is an ugly mess.

        – “as of now” they have very little future. That is why I advocate Google do more to make Android laptop friendly.

        – Its an option they should explore to make Android laptop friendly.

        • emanuele_zanetti

          I think Google will merge something of Chrome OS into Android, but Chrome OS and Android will never become the same thing because they are born for different users and different tasks.

      • winDowns syndrome

        You are right, win 8 is not an ugly mess, it’s an useless ugly mess.

        • ta2025


      • ta2025

        Windows 8 IS an ugly mess. Pure and simple. It is utterly unusable and completly frustrating. Just pull up a calculator in metrom mode on 24″ display if you want to dispute me. MAJOR FAIL.

    • mario

      it’s funny, whenever I use Windows 8 it reminds me of Android.

      Win8 basically has 2 desktop: classic desktop and ‘metro’ start screen.
      Android also seems to have 2 desktop: home screen & app drawer.

      having 2 desktop is confusing.

      ios is simpler, it only has 1 desktop with grid of icons, easier for user.
      WP7/WP8 also better, left side is desktop & right side is app drawer. easier for user.

      • emanuele_zanetti

        they (WP8 and Android) both have “2 desktops” (I don’t really consider Android’s app drawer a real desktop, while WP8’s metroUI start screen is a kind of desktop) but there are also launchers that don’t need/replace the app drawer (for example Action Launcher, I like it a lot because I have all my applications just one swipe away and the list doesn’t occupy more space than needed, I think it would be nice for stock Android to become like that), but you can’t do this on WP8 and, if you’re using an iOS device, you don’t have (yet) the possibility to add a desktop with widgets or other things. I think the main difference between Android, iOS and WP8 is that Android is more flexible and can adapt to the preferences of the user, while iOS and WP8 can’t. (anyway they all are great OSs, they are simply designed for different kinds of users and provide different experiences, I’m not saying that Android is the best :) )

    • BBLOND0N

      android on a laptop and you say W8 is a mess?????????????????????????????????????????????

      • 윌 스튜어트

        Android on laptop after Google brings some crucial changes. Why is your name BBLONDON?

  • Dusan

    No. I can’t imagine using Android to seriously surf the Internet. It’s pain in the ass to watch videos online.
    Windows is superior. And there is nothing wrong with Windows 8, I don’t miss the start button.

    • emanuele_zanetti

      which videos are you referring to? I have never had problems watching YouTube videos on Android.. if you refer to flash videos then yes, you won’t be able to, unless you install Flash by yourself..

      • Dusan

        YouTube videos for example. It’s useless trying to watch them in a browser on my One X. Unless I use the app but it’s not practical.

        • emanuele_zanetti

          oh, now I get it. yes, you’re right, it’s kind of bothering having to switch application in order to watch videos in a decent quality.. that may be an issue, maybe they will bring some kind of improvement (I hope so)

    • ta2025

      I can surf anything I want to surf on Android. I use it almost every waking moment. Far superior to Windows Crap.

      • Dusan

        I can’t imagine getting anything else but Android OS on my phone, but when it comes to serious internet use on a tablet or a computer, Windows is superior.
        It’s the most feature filled OS and supported by everything. Denying it is just being an ignorant fanboy.
        I was shopping for a tablet in January. Tried the new iPad, Note 10.1 and Asus TF810C. And Asus was just amazing.

        • UbuntuWillRule

          Windows is simply the worst OS ever tried in my life.

    • UbuntuWillRule

      Well, i’d really suggest you to try the last build of AndroidX86 4.3. The experience on my Hp G62 340US is fantastic and yes, you can watch youtube videos on the browser, YouTube or whatever you want. Android on X86 is so fast that you can’t even imagine. I know that this article isn’t recent but i can ensure that Android with the recent introduction of the Desktop style windows management, multi user experience and other stuff like that can really kick Microsoft and Windows8 (a flop) out of the market.

  • Jeffrey Heesch

    For $200? Yeah, I’d buy one.

  • Alex Davis III

    I’d have to look more into what an Android powered laptop could bring that I would not be able to achieve in using a tablet (aside from better hardware specs). Considering how much Android has grown and developed over the years, I don’t think we are too far from seeing an OS that can take on Windows and the Mac OS!

    Also, this may be the closest thing linux will get to achieving something close to mainstream attention if this becomes popular. I think it would be pretty cool!

  • Cl3v3rName

    for me the only thing that makes me go to windows is the office suites, adobe suites and some other software for work.

    • Adrian Remus

      You mean productivity. Thats the huge advantage that windows has…

  • Ivan Myring

    it wont succeed till we have MULTIWINDOW on AOSP

    • ta2025

      We dont have multi window on windows 8 Metro. Yes, it exists in desktop mode – which Microsoft has already told us is going away…

      • Adrian Remus

        Where did Microsoft told that? Point me to an article, please.

  • z0phi3l

    I’d be really interested in an Android laptop with at the minimum mid range specs, it would fit in nicely with what I would use it for and would supplement my Windows PC that would be for gaming and the laptop would be more of a stepped up media consumption device and light work/fun. It would be similar to what Apple does with iOS and OSX, because in all reality most of us don’t really need a full fledged Windows environment

  • Otto Gunter

    Short answer: no. Not until that Android laptop I buy is updated regularly and runs the latest version of the OS. As a Windows user, I know my pc/laptop/tablet will be upgraded to 8.1. As an Android user, I am stuck on whatever OS it came with. FAIL.

  • Alan Shearer

    The Asus transformer line does a pretty good job, though still a little limited. Maybe at first it will be dual system devices with microsoft windows and android running like the new asus notebook tablet hybrid they announced, before full fledged android notebooks are around.

  • TheApprentice

    LOL. :D

    • 윌 스튜어트

      Just look how depressing Gsmarena Blog is since they banned me (and others) http://blog.gsmarena.com/images-of-samsung-galaxy-tab-3-8-0-and-galaxy-tab-10-1-in-gold-brown-color-surface/

      Normally an article like this would have 100 comments by now.

      • TheApprentice

        Its better than having 90% spam, hate and useless comments. Your comments fall in category of hate and useless.

        • 윌 스튜어트

          Oh, prove it. Find me one comment.

          • TheApprentice

            Getting banned from gsmarena itself is a proof. :D :D

          • 윌 스튜어트

            I replied to a troll, that is why. others that replied to trolls got banned too.

          • TheApprentice

            Well that cant be the reason, i am allowed, so is tupperware.

          • 윌 스튜어트

            Look at how many comments there are on Gsmarena now – they blocked a lot of people.

          • TheApprentice

            Yep, its clean now. The comments will be back with time, no worry about that. But hope GSMArena is now moderating the comments section properly.

  • chris pinkston

    I think android isn’t far from being a good laptop os alternative to windows. Few upgrades here and there like browser and such. Then it would be ggood for casual computing and light productivity on laptop.

  • pauljgo

    I’m curious how limited an Android laptop would be. Could an Android laptop have a built in DVD or Bluray drive ? Could it write discs ?
    Host a scanner ?

    • Josh York

      Very good questions. I would like to know the answers, too. If Android could, in fact, handle these tasks, I would be very compelled to look into an Android laptop. I already love Android on my phone, and I’m getting bored of the Windows experience.

  • fandroid98

    I think they may have a real chance in the market. For the average person who just writes, games, browses, watches, reads, ETC. -These people don’t need windows. We do already have other Linux Distros, but they are not pre-loaded so no one takes the time to install them.

  • ChrisMay

    Lack of business type apps; that is exactly what Android needs to fix. There will always be power gamers out there, but the meat of the market will be in the PDA/Laptop for the “Pleasness” market. I like Android -a lot. It’s simple so stupid (but powerful) people like me can utilize the technology to be informed, entertained and productive. I don’t do spreadsheets at 35 thousand feet, but I do some thumbnail sketches and storing basic but meaningful information on an android based system would work, with the heavy lifting is left for the laptop/desktop by importing the files.

    Look, here’s what I want; my smartphone to dock with a laptop like device that turns the phone into the core of the laptop device with access to on board hard drive, fast processing, with word processing, simple spreadsheet, browser and phone apps. I want usb and bluetooth, make the phone slip in like the CDRom drives do, and perfectly dock – no BS, rapid boot, drop tested and waterproof (martini proof). I want to be able to make/receive calls, receive and annotate PDF files, wifi for the innernet, sd card slot and camera. On board battery with 15 hours of solid run time (for those long flights). The phone will drive it all.

    Can you do dat? Eh? Please?

    Do that with a great travel case with room for stuff,

  • EliasAlucard

    I’d ditch Windows in a heartbeat for Android, on my desktops/laptops. I’m only waiting for Google to update Android for desktop use. Much like the author of this article, the only reason I’m using still using Windows, has to do with the gaming exclusivity Microsoft has monopolised on (StarCraft mainly as it’s the only PC game I play, but hopefully Blizzard will release StarCraft to PS4 or something later on), and some Windows exclusive programs, like Notepad++, mIRC and so on. When Android becomes totally mainstream on the desktop, the developers of these apps won’t have much of a choice than to release Android versions anyway, so don’t underestimate the serious influence we users have if we all start using GNU/Linux and ditch Windows completely; developers would be forced to adapt after such a major shift. The reason why that hasn’t happened yet, is because most people can’t think for themselves, so the death of Windows has to come through Google/Android, rather than an independent consumer mass shift to GNU/Linux.

    I personally prefer GNU/Linux over Android not because GNU/Linux is better functionality-wise (Android has a lot of functionality which GNU/Linux lacks), but because GNU/Linux adheres much better to the Unix-standards (POSIX, SUS, LSB etc.), which Android still lacks compatibility with due to its absence of the GNU components. Standards are important.

    In any case, I don’t like these Android/Windows hybrid tablets, because as a hard core open source enthusiast, I don’t want Windows. I regard these hybrid solutions with Windows as an inferior solution. I want the software and hardware as purely open source as possible (yes, open source hardware would be awesome).