Android PCs and other Windows-alternative desktops are for real

Android PCs and other Windows-alternative desktops are for real

Summary: The rise of Android PCs and Chromebooks show that Microsoft could be losing its iron-grip on the desktop.


For years, decades, you could put all of alternative desktops — Linux, Mac, whatever — together and Windows would still beat them by ten to one. That was then. This is now.

Today, Windows 8.x's is still stalled out in the marketplace, Chromebooks sales have come out of nowhere to take a bite out of the low-end laptop market, and then there's Android.

Acer Android PC
Acer was the first major company to show an Android PC. They'll be far from the last.

You know Android as the number one smartphone and tablet operating system. Four big-name companies think Android has what it takes to be a top desktop operating system as well. Those companies include Lenovo and HP , the world's number one and number two PC manufacturers. Two other companies you may have heard of, AMD and Intel, also see Android on the PC. And, lest we forget, there's this little business named Google backing up Android.

Think about that: Five of the world's top tech companies think people want Android on their desktops. Four of them used to be counted among Microsoft's staunchest allies. Do you really think they'd be pushing Android on PCs if they didn't think there was a market there? I don't.

Why? Well, besides Windows 8.x's failure to gain market-share, Android has lots and lots of applications. Even Mac OS X, the one real thorn in Windows' side over the years, has only a fraction of the apps that Android brings to the table.

In addition, the rise of software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps has made the actual operating system running on a desktop less relevant. If a desktop can run a Web browser, it can run many top business programs such as Microsoft's own Office 365,'s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs, SAP's Enterprise Resource Planning, etc., etc. This is exactly why Chromebooks, the Chrome Web browser on top of a thin-layer of Linux, have gained in popularity.

Specifically, I see home users and SMBs adopting Android PCs relatively quickly. Enterprises will move more slowly. On the other hand, XP's end of support is coming soon. Even at this late date many businesses haven't decided where they'll go. The majority will, I'm sure, go with Windows 7, but I think a substantial minority, say 10 percent, will chose in 2014 to go with Android PCs, Chromebooks, or tablets.

So where do we go from here? By 2016, I think Windows will still be the top dog. That installed base isn't going away anytime soon.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, the number two operating system, with a double-digit market share, is going to be Android/Chrome OS. By then I think Google will have merged them. Even if Google hasn't, between the two platforms, they'll still have surpassed Mac OS as the second place desktop operating system by a wide margin.

If Google keeps them split, I see Chrome OS as number two. Anyone can use it and as more and more line-of-business software becomes Web-based SaaS, businesses will find Chromebook's low price and cost of maintenance irresistible.

In the meantime, Android is going to become popular with home and SOHO users. It's going to enable all those users who love Android on their tablets and smartphones to enjoy the same apps on their desktops.

So it is that by 2016, it will become clear that Windows really is on the way out. It's not gone yet. It will still be important in 2020, but the days when Microsoft could call the shots in the PC industry will be done.

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Topics: Hardware, Android, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Windows

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  • Android's natural progression onto

    the desktop is surely a game changer and with Chrome up their sleeve Google and PC OEMs can take the market by the horns and get away from all the over-hyped, out-dated Microsoft control of the PC market.
    • Overhyped?

      that would be android, chrome and linux on the desktop, how long has that hype been happening? The real numbers on chrome don't even touch Vista.
      • Yes, over-hyped

        If someone at Microsoft throws an ad budget out there there is much news about nothing. One look at what Mary Jo covers tells that story.
        • Hilarious

          This article is almost as funny as your response! rotflmao.
          • Android will take over

            Android is where the developer action is.

            Android has the public excited and engaged.

            Meanwhile, Microsoft Windows is losing both customers and developers. Nobody is interested in it. Nobody is excited by it. In fact, most people are annoyed by the new version of Windows.

            People have just had enough. After years of using Windows because it was a monopoly and they had to, people are now given alternatives, and they are happily jumping across to those alternatives.
          • The Problem

            android will have is the same problem Win 8 is having. People will not rush out to get it just for the change. They will only buy a new desktop when they need one and then they will decide which way to go, android or windows. So even if they do well the uptake will be slow.
          • People don't buy OS, they buy computers...

            ... and that's the reason they have had no problems to get Android smartphones and tablets. Now Android Linux has got 75% market share of all mobiles.

            What we should understand now is that Microsoft Windows PC is old, tired and useless Neanderthal ecosystem. Totally ancient for modern IT world.
          • Windows isnt at all old

            Not to defend Microsoft but Windows 8 is worlds ahead of what most other OS's are doing as far as optimization and performance. While I agree their current desktop isnt great for "desktops" its quite smooth and stable, which nobody can really say about any other OS these days as sadly Linux has lost alot of that stability in the recent years with the most stable builds and distros being those that use old kernels/versions/code/etc.
          • Wrong

            iOS is there the developer action is. Because it's where the developer return on investment is.

            And despite the author's comment that...

            " Even Mac OS X, the one real thorn in Windows' side over the years, has only a fraction of the apps that Android brings to the table."

            Apple could let every iOS app run on Mac OS X tomorrow, if they wished to.

            And the difference is, that the vast majority of them have already been tested running under Mac OS X.
            Henry 3 Dogg
          • they arent really...

            Android can still really only do one thing at once... how is this for a desktop PC? Pretty garbage if you ask me.
            While its cool for phones... it also lags all the time on phones... it will lag on desktops and has plenty of issues with security aswell, its like Windows was years ago... its not as mature yet. I don't see Android unseating Windows in the desktop world. But I agree that the OS on the top has become less relevant for those just browsing the web. But browsers are still the fastest on desktops and on Windows specifically because of drivers and optimizations. Most (if not all) desktop browsers use GPU power and things like DX or OpenGL or OpenCL to process/render pages.
          • Surely you jest!

            Android is based on Linux. Linux is a multitasking system! I have an old Huawei Android tablet that was given to me. It has some H/W limitations, but I can run more than one app at a time. Since I am not familiar with all the Android tablets out there, it may be some manufacturers may have implemented a "restrictive 'desktop' environment".

            I had a Radio Shack CoCo 1 that ran OS/9 (a cloned Unix subset from Microware) and could multitask when the early IBM PCs could not (until OS/2 arrived).
          • I run Android x86 on my desktop...

            I am running Android x86 on my desktop. I dual boot with Windows 7.

            It's rare that I experience lag on the desktop, honestly. It's a very wonderful system to use. I still have to use Windows for some things but it just takes longer for it to boot up and connect to the web.

            And my computer was built in 2009, so probably not considered the latest and greatest anymore.
          • Why did they just set a record quarter?

            Windows marketshare has hardly changed. They are growing in the server market (and have been). Their developer tools are selling strong

            It's like people keep saying the ship is sinking when the water line hasn't changed and it is travelling faster than ever. Granted some of the components of the ship may be struggling compared to other ships but on the whole the ship seems to be doing quite well.
      • Agreed. Where are these mythical Chromebooks he keeps talking about?

        I see plenty in stock, none in the wild.

        Yet I have seen many Windows 8 tablets, Laptops, and convertibles.
        • I have seen a few around

          But I can say I havent seen really any Windows 8 tablets around... infact I actaully rarely see tablets AT ALL. Tablets sell like hotcakes supposedly but I don't think most people use them too often... I do see alot of Windows 8 laptops around though... alot more than Chromebooks which I rarely see (especially owned by anyone but geeks).
      • Microshaft v Android

        I was going to get a Windows 8 pc or at least a newer pc because I want to use Rocksmith 2014 and my Windows 7 pc is too old, too slow ,and not enough memory. Sounds like all of us over 50 don't it?
        Anyway Rocksmith only works on Windows, Macs, Sony ps3 and X-Box. Games are out and so are Macs. Steam and Ubisoft are fooling with Linux so maybe that will work?

        Ralph E. Falkenburg Jr.
        • Over 60 and still learning

          I am in the second half of my seventh decade and still working.

          I had to get a new notebook last month, I opted for Windows 8.1 Pro.

          Yes, a little odd at first, but already I can do the main things for work, my personal apps tend to reside on my Galaxy Note devices (2, 8, 10.1).

          By other accounts, Windows 8.1 is very stable
          AN O'Nymous
          • Windows 8.1

            I agree with anonymous. I have run windows 8.1 since the first arrival. I like the system and have lots of applications working very well with it. I do not understand all these negativism about it. I am 66 years old and a retired engineer of computer science. I also have a tablet with Windows 8.1, unfortunately only with 32 bits processor.

            I also have a Samsung Galaxy S4 with Android, and am also very happy with it, although it takes some times to learn about all the features. I think that Android will become a new and welcome OS for PCs and laptops.

            Curiosity has always taken the lead in development. Negativism leads nowhere.

            Stephan Sundqvist
          • And all his own teeth

            The problem with Windows 8 / 8.1 isn't addressed by saying that you can do the main things that you need to do.

            The problem is that is has no / zero / 0 advantages over Windows 7

            So what is the point of paying $100 and putting up with something that is even

            "...a little odd at first..."

            when there is no reason to do so?
            Henry 3 Dogg
          • Fewer Advantages but Windows 8 is not the real problem

            People are holding on to computers longer (more reliable, powerful enough). Why worry about upgrading when you computer is powerful enough to do everything you need.

            I agree not much reason to upgrade from Windows 7 but my Windows 8/8.1 build has been more stable, starts/shutdowns quicker, seems quicker in general, than when I was running Windows 7. Hello!

            For me having a Windows 8 tablet and a Windows 8 desktop PC has been nice. I play metro version of games, music, videos, Mail and Flipboard on my desktop PC.

            It really is *not* Windows 8 that is an issue though. It is the alternative - tablets and smartphones provide most of the computer power folks need. I use my home desktop/work laptop primarily for work. I do watch movies, listen to music, read news/blogs on it as well. MS missed the boat since they are primarily and enterprise company that was too short-sighted to focus on the consumer. Always worrying that they would somehow degrade there business-side of things. Ballmer blew it.