Android as a PC operating system isn't a new idea. Samsung announced a dual-boot Windows 8.x/Android convertible tablet, the Ativ Q, in June 2013. There are also rumors that Intel and its partners will be announcing "PC Plus" devices that will run Android apps on top of Windows 8.1, ala Bluestacks, at CES. HP and Lenovo have a more radical idea: Replace Windows entirely with Android on the desktop.
Once a Microsoft mainstay, HP announced a new series of Android 4.3-powered enterprise PCs at CES. These Android PCs are coming in a wide variety of formats.
- ProOne 400 All-in-One (AiO): This all-in-one PC is a 19.5-inch PC that starts at $749. The device, available Feb. 3, is tailored for video and audio conferencing and runs that latest Intel Core processors. A 21.5-inch version will be available March 31 for $799.
- HP 205 AiO. Another all-in-one that runs on AMD processors and starts at $449. The display is 18.5 inches.
- HP 200 MicroTower uses Intel Pentium or Celeron Processors, Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 and has a design with easy port access starting at $349.
- HP Pro x2 410 is a commercial notebook with a detachable screen so it can be used as a laptop or tablet for $899. The screen is 11.6 inches and there's a full-size keyboard.
- The HP 350 G1 is a business notebook that'll run on a variety of Intel processors.
Get the picture? This isn't just a single PC or a line of PCs, it's a full collection of business PCs. HP is in dead earnest: The company sees Android as a mainstream desktop operating system.
To deal with the Windows legacy software problem, HP proposes that workers can use Citrix Receiver for Windows application support. Receiver is a remote desktop program that's long been used to deliver Linux, Unix, and Windows apps to pretty much any mobile or desktop operating system.
Lenovo is taking a different slant. The number one computer company in the world's Lenovo N308 is an AiO desktop for home users. It's powered by a Nivdia Tegra Quad processor, uses Android 4.2, has a 500 GB of storage, a Webcam, keyboard, mouse, an integrated battery with 3 hours of life, and a 19.5" display. Curiously, you can lay it down flat to use it as an enormous tablet.
Unlike HP, which the enterprise clearly in its sights, Lenovo's N308 is targeting users who already love Android for browsing, games, and entertainment.
This comes on top of both Lenovo and HP investing in Chromebooks. So why not more Chromebooks? After all, Chromebooks are selling well and we already know that Toshiba is throwing its hat into the Chromebook ring at CES. I suspect that HP and Lenovo are betting that users will feel more secure with a somewhat more conventional desktop operating system model than the Linux and cloud-based Chrome OS.
The Linux desktop hasn't really challenged Windows since Microsoft used XP to kill off the Linux netbooks in 2009. Now, thanks to Google and its twin punches of Android and Chromebooks, the Linux desktop may yet give Windows a run for its money.