Could Android replace Windows?

February 7, 2013

AndroidReplaceWindows

Suggesting that another operating system could fill the shoes of Windows sounds crazy, it certainly isn’t going to happen in the near future, desktop Linux still hasn’t managed it. What about the much longer term though? Android is surprisingly well-placed to take on the mantle of the Redmond behemoth. Don’t believe me? Keep reading to see why.

Convergence

windows8startscreen

The idea of a mobile operating system replacing a desktop operating system would have been ludicrous just a few years ago. However, Microsoft has firmly pinned it colours to the mast with Windows 8. It, like everyone else, sees that the future is mobile, and has started morphing the world’s staple operating system into something more mobile-friendly. The new tiled interface of Windows 8 is made for touch input, has an app store and sandboxes all of its apps. That looks pretty much like a mobile OS to me. However, unless you’re using a Windows RT device, all of that touch interface is glued on top of the traditional desktop interface.

Meanwhile, Google is moving toward the desktop with Chrome OS, and Android is finally taking off as a tablet operating system. Of all the mobile operating systems, Android is the most Windows-like. It has an easily accessible file system (unlike iOS or Windows Phone). It as the most accessible development environment, and the most friendly terms for OEMs, i.e. it’s free of cost. Furthermore, Android is appearing on an ever wider range of devices, from the Galaxy Camera, to Smart TVs and the Ouya gaming console.

Compared to other platforms

AndroidvsWP8

Ironically, for Microsoft, Android is more Windows-like than Windows Phone. The similarities can be seen more from the OEM and developer side than the consumer side, though. Any OEM can build an Android device, unlike iOS, and Windows Phone requires a royalty. It’s cheaper to get into developing Android apps and it’s just as hard to diagnose problems in Android due to the heterogeneous hardware landscape – just like the PC world. Also, Android is much more affordable than other mobile platforms. iOS devices are beyond the financial reach of many people and while there are some reasonably priced Windows Phone handsets, they are in the minority of the range.

What’s more, Android has enabled OEMs to experiment with innovative hardware formats. Remember that the Asus Transformer and Motorola Atrix laptop dock were available long before the current crop of Windows 8 convertible Ultrabooks.

Tablets are the new PC

nexus-open

Sales figures show that tablets are becoming ever more popular with some analysts suggesting tablets will overtake PC sales in the near future. This makes sense, as someone who exclusively used Linux for a long time then transferred back to Windows for work reasons, I know just how complicated Windows actually is. To do anything more than web browsing, Windows is an overwhelming maze of menus and dialogues, it’s certainly no easier to use than desktop Linux. Whenever I see my non-tech literate friends and family proudly showing off their new Windows laptop, I cringe when I think of all the things that are going to go wrong for them.

The comparatively simplified and controlled user interface that we find on all mobile devices, including Android, is far more suitable to the majority of consumers who are not tech-literate and have little inclination to learn. For the record, I disagree with such attitudes, it’s as irresponsible as owning a car and not understanding how it works, but that’s just me, I know most people will never subscribe to that point of view.

The future of Windows

The factor that has always been in favor of Windows is inertia. Windows is the de facto operating system across the world. However, Microsoft’s way of getting everybody into a touch interface has been with the tiled (formally known as ‘Metro’) interface. Not only has the market reaction to this been lukewarm, but many OEMs have not gotten behind the drive, as evidenced by the number of laptops that lack touchscreens.

Disclosure, I have been using and preferring Windows 8 (to 7) since its release preview.

Reluctance to adopt the tiled interface, combined with the meteoric rise in popularity could start many people thinking about turning to Android tablets with keyboard docks as alternatives to Windows Ultrabooks, especially when most Ultrabooks cost marginally more than Android tablet and keyboard combinations.

Surface

The other advantage that Android currently has over Windows 8 and Windows RT is that of apps. Unless the app catalogue volume for Windows RT explodes over the next year or two, Android will still offer a great advantage for apps that people may need for personal and work uses.

Microsoft has been touting the vision that using Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 will offer the best integrated experience between ‘PC’ and phone. However, as someone who regularly uses Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, I have yet to see any meaningful integration. The most effective integration I’ve experienced is SkyDrive and OneNote – both of which are available for Android.

Moreover, look at the user interface of Android phones and tablets. There is far more similarity between the two, and most apps will run on phones and tablets. Meanwhile, the difference with Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Phone gets tricky to explain to the non-techies in our lives.

On the entertainment side, Microsoft’s Xbox music matching service is an appalling mess, whereas Google Music has been up and running for a long time. Its maturity has made it possible third party developers to create Google Music clients on Windows 8/RT and Windows Phone.

Problems with this vision

There are clearly good reasons for Android to take over from Windows. For example, I’d feel much safer recommending an Android tablet to members of my family than a full blown Windows laptop. However, there are always going to be desktop class applications that people need for their work, such as video or image editing, etc.

Furthermore, Microsoft’s commitment to the tiled touch interface will mean that everyone who owns a home computer will probably end up using, and getting used to Windows 8. Inertia wins again.

Also, the Windows 8 and Windows Phone shared kernel could yet provide a virtuous circle for developers to create apps and games that will run on mobile and on desktops. Even so, Microsoft are not pretending Windows Phone will go any further than third place in the smartphone wars.

Ultimately, waiting for Android to take over from Windows is wishful thinking, but there are an increasing number of individual cases where doing so actually makes a lot of sense.

Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003139830976 Ian Blyth

    Sorry but i disagree with pretty much this entire article… as a photographer, a tablet or laptop could never replace my home pc, simply in terms of power, usability and HDD space neither laptops nor tablets can compete with a desktop computer.

    As much as companies try and focus on portability and new technologies like touchscreen and new ideas, those same ideas and technologies are what drive consumers who rely on power, space and usability to manage their workload.

    Windows 8 is a great example of a new OS that tries to focus too much on the emerging touch screen environment but has alienated it’s user base who require simple access to menus and a desktop environment that is easy to switch between tasks. The new ‘full screen’ apps for Windows 8 are probably great on a touchscreen device, but on a desktop environment with more than 1 monitor, you’re suddenly limited to moving only within the app, rendering the entire program useless for any real editing.

    For a desktop OS like Android to work effectively, it would have to work across a broad spectrum of users, from programmers, to writers, photographers, gamers and so on… it works well as a mobile environment because you only have one app up at once, two on later devices like the Note 2, but at a loss of workspace. That sort of working won’t appeal to anyone who works heavily on a desktop and relies on switching between programs quickly or having two or three things running at once.

    • Tony Raffini

      well come on man…

      obviously if android was made to work on a desktop it wouldn’t just be full screen apps. There would some implementation of apps running inside of window-like views just like Windows, OSX or Chromium.

      • http://www.facebook.com/hudspeth Mathew Hudspeth

        So…. Linux?

        • Tony Raffini

          well no because it would be more like Android.

          • Nathan Cox

            Android runs on a Linux kernel. You can even bring up a terminal and interact with the system using the normal linux commands. Android is, in reality, just another linux distro.

          • BinhLHT

            the biggest and the most successful distro

    • http://www.facebook.com/ichuck7 Charles Chambers

      Multitasking is bad for your brain. With that being said, I am guilty.

    • Alexander Ramos

      That the reason that I think Chrome OS could make more sense if Google make it more offline friendly and expand its usability for more users than internet users.
      Tabets are Ok, but I see them just like for people that need a reader and internet users, multitasking is nothing but efficienless in a touch screen device.
      I think Google should push harder Chrome OS and make it more I like a regular offline OS… starting for printers off the cloud…

      • Alex Murphy

        Yep, that’s the solution. I own a Chromebook and it’s great. Allow Android apps to run natively in the browser (and offline) and it’s gold – now you have both the lightweight benefits of a “web OS” and more powerful apps running through Native Client.

    • codeitbetter

      The thing is many people think the user interface if the OS. Wrong , its only the interface , Android is a linux distro. Once someone will code a desktop for Android , ore adapt existing Linux desktop , linux will finally takeover Windows.
      Its the Window8 strategy but in the opposite direction : From the mobile to the Desktop.Android just demonstrated Linux could be user friendly. Just dont tell them its Linux ;-)
      So native apps are possible ( actually native code for critical operations ).
      Wait and see

  • kemvanto

    I really like to have android computer for many thinks W8 is a pretty hell in a desktop and a very bad experience on the tablet side and for W8 pro haha that is a joke the other problem that has Windows at this moment is the security on the devices we have hacked last night and so the block my laptop whit all my information on, so the laptop still on 15 day warranty so i retun to the store and get my money back and get my formation back. I was royally to Windows i use all the OS to W 95 to W 8 and for me W 8 need to go back ans redesign all over and get more security

    • http://twitter.com/matter37 Matthew

      Security problems are the users fault.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1042511992 Jacob Bishop

      The interface for windows 8 isn’t as bad as everyone says. Easy to work around. People blow it way out of proportion.

  • Ronnie

    I am an Android but. But its not close to being a business class OS.

  • Mandeep

    It is not true fact windows can never be replaced by anyone else. It is a great OS for all person. Even it know all of our requirements. It is base of the PC. You can not handle you PC with any other OS so much easily. Android is growing just because of open source.

    • Andrew Mezzi

      You can’t handle your PC with any other OS so much easily? I’ve been running Linux for 2 years now and it works just as well as Windows. I know plenty of Mac users who think Macs are much easier. You can’t say that Windows is perfect for everybody.

  • fatefulness

    Android already ca. Probably in about 2-3 updates it will be good enough to actually fully replace windows, but the ability of Wine for android is actually amazing

  • Mystic

    That should read *informally* known as Metro.

  • barrage

    please note that android has virtual machine layer.
    it wont be as effective as Linux, Windows, or any other OS.

    Android is my primary choice for smartphone because I depend heavily on Google service.
    But for desktop, I still prefer Win7 and MacOSX. I’m a programmer and a heavy gamer :)

    .
    regarding topic, for desktop space, I believe Android will never able to replace Windows.

    • Lex-Man

      Windows runs a virtual machine layer it called .NET. Also you can run native code on Android using the JINI interface.

      • Mikkel

        Windows does not run on .Net. .Net runs on Windows.

        • Lex-Man

          That’s what I said.

        • codeitbetter

          You don’t know how much of Windows relies on .NEt now. I guess more and more since C# is more productive than C++ and Microsoft never really cared about performance.
          So yes , the gap between ‘native’ and VM is closing.
          Many game runs OK because a lot of the work can be offloaded to hardware. There is a long time people dont handcode the physics anymore.

  • Mondiniennio Ennio

    From bad to worse

  • Mix

    Well…I sure hope so!

  • http://www.facebook.com/olumide.oyetoke Olumide Oyetoke

    I just installed and saw windows 8 for the 1st time yesterday.
    It took me less than 30 minutes to get used to it.
    Having previously used all versions of windows since windows 98, I find win 8 to be so similar to win 7.
    Once you click on “desktop”, you’re good to go :)
    Linux isn’t my taste, I just have it handy as dual boot just in case I have a problem booting my windows.
    I believe Android cannot replace windows.
    How long did it take you to get used to Windows 8?

    • daFuqNigga

      Put down the crack pipe.
      you either only read the title or skimmed threw da rtickle

      • luminelx64

        lol

  • Alu Zeros

    Windows has a chance if they just came out with better hardware and a better ecosystem around it

  • xmanj

    Android needs to develop high performance video graphics capabilities. Without gaming support, Android will find it hard to replace windows as many people still use windows for it’s superior gaming performance and support.

    • codeitbetter

      It already exists , the standard OpenGL 3d library. Standard since many years ago
      thanks to Silicon Graphics. There are less and less reasons to use ‘Native’ code for a Game nowadys ( i would say no reasons ). Its mainly offloaded to the hardware: 3d ,collision detection , physics , …

      • Terminatah Xray

        Well its obviously not viable at this time. Android needs to develop a PC xestop with high end graphics cabilities. Android also needs a real office productivity suite. I’m an Android fan, but windows is clearly way ahead in gaming and productivity.

  • Andrew Mezzi

    If anything by Google replaces Windows, it will be Chrome, not Android. Right now, people aren’t ready to completely abandon desktop apps, but I suspect that people will be in a few years. There will be people such as programmers or graphic designers who need powerful desktop apps, but they’re a minority. Traditional desktop computers running Windows and OS X will still be sold, but they will probably become more expensive and less common as demand drops. I predict that in 5 years, everybody will have a Chromebook or a Chromebox.

    • Justin Reid

      I know this is a late reply but its been two years since your prediction and there has been no sign of laptops and desktops receding. In fact tablet sales have begun to stagnate due to the lack of usability compared to laptops, the exception of this is the Surface Pro 3 which my revolutionize the market. Microsoft with Windows 8 and the upcoming Windows 9 now stand in a great position in releasing powerful hybrid from factor devices that connect the bridge between “mobile devices” and pc’s. Realize that when laptops first came to be there were many predicting that desktops would vanish. Well they haven’t because many people/business’ need the processing power of a desktop compared to a laptop. Clamshell Laptops as well as desktops still have a very long life ahead of them.

  • Noah

    There are two reasons why titles like these really concern me.

    The first reason is the analytical point of view.

    Admittedly sales figure show us that more and more people are using smartphones, and now tablets. But it’s a stretch to say that ultimately tablets will replace desktops and laptops. The same was said of smartphones a few years ago and it didn’t happen.

    Sure, people like a gadget, and some professional also find interesting uses of the new smartphones and to a lesser extent, tablets. But before doing any projection we should have a serious look at ICT usage both in households and in business. Then in each category, how would fit each technology and related OSes?

    In business it is quite clear that tablets have little future except a few niche markets, and some show-off. So has Windows 8, which doesn’t look serious and isn’t practical because of the way they shut down any option for a normal (and more efficient) keyboard / mouse use.

    In households this could be more difficult to see. For simple, immediate use it would seem that tablets are better at first glance, especially for people who are only browsing the internet (disturbingly enough there’s a good share of them…). But beyond that (or even for that), you have to realise soon how limited a tablet interface is. Any simple operation like typing text to fill in a form or discuss on a forum, downloading an email attachment, copy / paste text for reference, switch application, … is becoming cumbersome. For Apple gadgets it’s even worse as they wouldn’t be able to go far without a computer and iTunes to register and manage a part of their device.

    “To do anything more than web browsing, Windows is an overwhelming maze of menus and dialogues,” can you give examples? Because it looks comparatively much simpler to me, as I don’t have to work around the limitations of the system. Using a menu is pretty straightforward… unless you want to configure the system and deal with more complex tuning (though this has improved a lot with Win7).

    So tablet vendors lure people in thinking it’s cool to be able to wander in their house holding a tablet and checking their emails or ordering pizzas while watching TV at the same time or having breakfast, but it’s bound to be a short-lived awe. I’m really more comfortable going back to my laptop or desktop to answer emails or doing anything beyond looking idly at this small smeared screen.

    Any experience is better on a desktop, with a full screen, a good audio system, keyboard a mouse, than on a tablet. Except the relative mobility. How much are people ready to sacrifice for that in the long term?

    The second reason is eth(n)ical. What will we become, as individuals and as a society, if we go on like that?

    As a person, I don’t like how vendors try to feed me with simplified solutions “because it’s easier”. Look at games that are now designed for consoles, and for the widest audience, they’re getting so stupid. Look at an OS like Win8 with this ridiculous Metro interface, is that so hard to click on an icon, or in a menu to launch an application (or simply to type a few letters? So much more efficient). I’m not even talking about Apple and their policy to reduce the functionality because “not everyone wants to have too much choice”.

    We’re easing people and future generations in being assisted and stupid, period. It’s time we stopped that and refuse this silliness. There are scientific studies giving strong evidence of how debilitating all this having-the-information-at-one’s-fingertip has on people, and on top of that we’re building interfaces that look like 3-year old children toys. Don’t you feel a bit humiliated? I do, I need to exercise, not to be assisted as if I were a retard, thank you very much.

    There’s also the question of focus. Why do people feel the need to hold a tablet in their hands while they’re watching TV at the same time? Or having breakfast with their family? Can you imagine something more disruptive, and proner to lead to ADD?

    Anyway, back to the original question, will Android replace Windows? Hopefully not, MS should see their mistake soon enough and let the user get back to a normal desktop UI, for professional reasons if nothing else. And if not, it’s on Linux I’d place my bet, they’ve got a much stronger experience in OS, virtualization, drivers, and professional applications. Android is for something else entirely, not the same philosophy.

    • YouIsaJagoffAsaur

      I note a sense of hostility in your writing also maybe you should have a drink first next time before you post

  • Ville Laine

    I will never want to use android/linux platform pc on everyday basis. In fact I will never buy an android phone again, I did that mistake twice and I won’t do it again

  • Austin Rausch

    I disagree. I think with the number of consumers going with mobile devices, as mentioned, there is a very good possibility for Android or even IOS for that matter to overtake windows in the near future. Momentum has worked for Microsoft in the past but I honestly think Windows 8 as a whole (to include RT) is a classic case of ‘too little too late’. The momentum of the of the competition may prove to be too strong for even the M to overcome. I think they need to stick with what they’re good at and that is business. Microsoft has repeatedly set the standard for the Business World and with Windows 8 it seems they are trying to abandon that and hop on a wagon that can’t support their weight along with the contending companies that are already dominating the market.

    With the blistering speed of technology, its always better to be a trend setter than to follow the pack.

  • Mr C Hargreaves

    Of course Linux/Android will take over where Microsoft dropped the ball. Look at this month when the price of Windows 8 went up 400%, and you can get Linux virtually free. I would like an `Ultimate` version of Linux for around $25 with everything (that works with everything); and await one to come to market on DVD (with a boot CD fixer inc).

  • freddythegeek

    I think it already has because a lot of people don’t have money to waste and people need there phones it’s like a drug and we are all hooked on and that’s what android is it’s a phone which means that it is already doing something better then your computer a android gives you the internet what most people want from the computer and I have a htc and all I do is connect it to my tv and I play my videos youtube, facebook, netflix the most popular thing on the internet is on a android

    if you want 1000g and photoshop all the things that android cant do then get a laptop

  • billzy

    Totally agree with this article. I am a web developer , multimedia designer and marketer.. there are coding and ftp apps out there already that work fine.. Photoshop touch sorts out graphics … video and sound editing well that is lagging behind … the only thing right now that is stopping me from the full shift to android is the fact I can’t run xlms macro enabled excel spreadsheets.. xlms is the is the only reason I have windows ..I could create a cloud based system that solves that problem for each xlms file I use but a lot of time would be involved … android to replace windows is solo close I can almost touch it

  • http://uncensored.citadel.org/ IGnatius T Foobar

    Windows has had its heel on the neck of the computing world for far too long. It’s time that we as a world moved on. Android and Linux are ideal replacements for the entire Microsoft stack.