Is Android the new Windows?

Moderated by Jason Hiner | December 3, 2012 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: Google's operating system is installed on almost three quarters of all mobile devices sold, and these devices are now outselling PCs. But is market dominance where the similarities end?

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Yes

or

No

Christopher Dawson

Christopher Dawson

Best Argument: No

46%
54%

Audience Favored: No (54%)

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Are my debaters standing by?

    I'll be posting my first question at 11am ET / 8am PT.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Yes sir!

    That's 16:00 GMT here...

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    I can hardly wait...

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    A note to our readers...

    Starting at 11am ET sharp, this page should automatically refresh for you each time I post a question or one of our debaters posts an answer. If the page doesn't refresh, please refresh manually the first time. It should be fine after that.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

  • Great Debate Moderator

    OK, first question:

    The Q3 global sales figures from Gartner have Android outselling the entire PC market by a wide margin: 122 million units versus 87 million units. How significant are these numbers?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Very.

    As sales shift from PC to mobile, it is driving us from a world dominated by the PC into a the post-PC era where smaller, impersonal desktop and notebook systems are giving way to more personal devices.

    Dollars spent on post-PC devices are dollars not being spent on PCs, and this is putting hardware OEMs -- most of which used to look at themselves as almost exclusively 'Microsoft hardware partners' -- in an awkward position of having to carve out a new market or risk a future of uncertainty and dwindling returns.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    They're significant for the mobile market

    The message is that nobody is buying feature phones anymore and are, instead, turning to smartphones. Because so many OEMs sell Android phones through every major carrier, often heavily subsidized (making them "free" or very inexpensive), it's a no-brainer that Android will have extremely strong sales. Everyone needs a phone. Not everyone needs a PC. Android tablets, with their generally low price tags (especially the Kindle Fire and Nook families and the Nexus 7) are approaching the realm of impulse buys, but remain largely entertainment-oriented consumer companion devices. Again, strong sales are no surprise here.

    For a small subset of users (again, particularly among consumers), a tablet can certainly replace a PC, so there is some cannibalization of the PC market here. That said, while the PC market isn't what it used to be, it's still very strong. Real work is still largely dependent on a full-blown computer with a decent-sized screen and a full keyboard. Especially in the enterprise, users need PCs, even if those are increasingly tablet/ultrabook hybrids running Windows 8.

    Bottom line, the numbers don't tell the full story of PC demand. They instead point to trends in smartphone and tablet adoption rather than "the death of the PC."

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Windows' big lead?

    In terms of its overall installed based, Windows still has a big lead over mobile platforms. How much does this still matter and how long will it last?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Companion devices are the future of the PC

    Right now, mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are companion devices. They are an accessory that complements a desktop or notebook PC. People are happy juggling multiple devices. But this is likely to change.

    I have no doubt that one day what we now refer to as companion devices will replace the PC, or at least change what we think of a PC. I remember when notebooks -- or laptops as they were called back then -- were looked at as companion devices because what you gained in terms of portability you lost in terms of power and versatility. Thanks to Moore's law, notebooks are now replacements for desktop systems. It won't be long until tablets are powerful enough to handle tasks that currently need a desktop or notebook system.

    As tablets become more powerful, they will take over more and more of the functions that we currently turn to a desktop or notebook PC to carry out. I see the PC of the future -- and by future I'm thinking maybe five years into the future -- will be a tablet that can plug into a dock to transform it into a desktop system.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    It matters a lot.

    On the consumer front, many people still rely on applications that haven't translated well to tablets. Office productivity suites and financial applications are the most important and people aren't going to be giving up Quicken, Word, or Excel anytime soon. People are increasingly comfortable turning to tablets and smartphones for entertainment, Web surfing, and communications which will continue to erode consumer PC demand, but Android devices are very much "companion devices" for most people. They are much loved, but when students need to write an essay or a small business owner needs to balance her books, they sit down to a PC.

    On the enterprise front, the install base for Windows is even more important. Businesses have invested extraordinary amounts of time and money in Windows infrastructure, building out robust policy and management tools and relying heavily on Active Directory. Even the biggest cloud providers (like Google) ensure that their services integrate with Active Directory because most businesses run on Windows. Android won't be stepping in anytime soon to take over for Windows in the enterprise.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Developers, developers...

    Despite representing three quarters of new mobile devices being sold in Q3, Android is in the awkward position of not being the mobile platform of choice for developers. That distinction goes to iOS, mostly because its users purchase more apps. What does this say about Android's opportunity to become the world's most prevalent computing platform?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Many opportunities...

    While it is true that developers like to "follow the money," and right now, the platform of choice for pulling in the most dollars per user is iOS, the huge and rapidly expanding Android user base is one that developers snub at their peril.

    It might be harder to pry money from the wallets and purses of Android users, but there are more of them out there, and that itself presents many opportunities for developers to make money out of developing for Android.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Beyond fragmentation

    The recent release of the Nexus 4 (demand for which crushed Google's Play Store on both the initial day of sales and when pre-orders for a second round of phones went live last week) shows that Google is well aware of what it must do to become as important to developers as it is to consumers. The Nexus 4 thumbs its nose at carriers (Google even left off 4G/LTE and Verizon support to bypass the fragmentation that carriers impose on the ecosystem) and is being sold at a loss (estimated at nearly $200 a handset) to get a standardized, regularly updated, powerful platform into as many hands as possible.

    Application sales aside, what would you rather develop for? Hundreds of different phones and tablets running several very different versions of an operating system or 4 devices (the iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone 4, and iPhone 5) running the same OS? The answer is obviously the latter. The fragmentation has to go.

    However, once the fragmentation is addressed, Android has a real advantage for developers in that it allows much deeper developer access to the OS than iOS does. SwiftKey, for example, is a hugely popular Android-only app that provides an outstanding keyboard/predictive text interface for Android. The company can't sell anything like it on iOS because Apple doesn't allow the stock keyboard to be replaced. If these sorts of advantages can be leveraged, developers will embrace Android in ways they generally haven't to date.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Windows turning tide?

    With Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, Microsoft is attempting to unify the PC, tablet, and smartphone experience. Could this eventually turn the tide and allow Windows to recapture lost ground?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Broken Windows on the gamble

    While there's no doubt that Microsoft is 'attempting' to unify the PC, tablet, and smartphone experience, I would argue that it is failing miserably.

    The Windows brand is one that consumers and enterprise alike associate with desktop and notebook systems, but what Microsoft has tried to do is show-horn features that work on the Windows Phone platform into a desktop operating system in the hope that this will unify the user experience and drive tablet sales.

    Rather than creating a unified experience, what Microsoft has done is broken the Windows user interface on the gamble that a new user interface for Windows is what was needed to create a market for Windows-powered tablets.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Yes, at least in the enterprise space and potentially for consumers as well.

    The hardware innovation we're seeing in Windows 8 devices is compelling for consumers and IT staff looking to leverage their existing Windows infrastructure are far happier to provide tablets and phones to employees that they can easily manage with familiar existing tools.

    Neither Android nor iOS will be crushed by the new approach out of Redmond. They're sexy, robust, and have massive traction among consumers and developers. However, if users can see a familiar interface regardless of the screen at which they're looking, that's certainly a powerful value add for Windows. Similarly, with the growing number of hybrids and slick, enterprise-ready tablet devices rising out of Windows 8, many users no longer need to have a PC and a tablet. Their PC *is* their tablet and vice versa. Even with the generally higher cost of Windows 8 tablet devices, that's a very attractive proposition. After all, how many devices do you really want to shove into your bag every day?

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Businesses have not warmed up to Android yet.

    Many of them still prefer BlackBerry because of its security and manageability, from an enterprise perspective. And many companies that are moving away from BlackBerry smartphones are migrating to iPhone. Why is that and can Android turn it around?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Business-centric features can shift the balance.

    It's easy to think that it is the consumer vote that makes or breaks a smartphone. That's not true.

    Enterprise users also play a significant factor, and the right set of business-centric features can shift the balance. The success of the Samsung Galaxy S III is testament to this. This is a handset that is also getting a lot of attention from enterprise and the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) crowd thanks to enterprise-friendly features such as AuthenTec's QuickSec VPN client technology which allows users to access corporate networks when out and about.

    While there's no doubt that BlackBerry is losing favor, and that iOS is currently the winner thanks to this exodus, handsets such as the Galaxy S III will no doubt be of great interest to enterprise users.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    There are several drivers for this...

    ...but the biggest is consumerization/user demand. Just about everyone can afford an Android phone or tablet. Yet study after study has shown that iOS device buyers are intensely loyal. Android device buyers are either geeks or buy them based on cost and availability. Many would happily switch to iOS if they could. So if the company is picking up the tab, why not demand the devices you really want?

    Apple also makes it much easier for enterprises to buy their products at scale. They have enterprise sales teams, attractive leasing and financing deals, and a direct sales infrastructure that every other OEM, as well as Google, can't touch right now. There really isn't an easier way to do a mass deployment of tablets or smartphones than through Apple. Again, the Nexus 4, 7, and 10 were opening volleys in Google's march into the enterprise. Sold and updated directly by Google, these devices are advancing what Google is already doing with their Chromebooks for enterprise customers. The short answer, then, is that Android can turn this around if Google continues to step away from carriers and builds out sales structures.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Will Android tablets catch on?

    Similarly, Android tablets are almost non-existent in the enterprise, where iPads are the tablets of choice and Windows 8 has a chance to capture some momentum as well. Will Android tablets catch on, and if not, will that hurt the long-term viability of Android as a ubiquitous platform?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Google must pay more attention to enterprise needs

    Adoption of Android tablets by consumers will drive adoption in enterprise, thanks to increasing BYOD.

    That said, Google does need to pay more attention to enterprise needs as it takes Android into the future, and also work with hardware makers -- especially the likes of Lenovo -- create the sorts of tablets that enterprise users want.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Android tablets will catch on for a few reasons...

    1) They are very aggressively priced relative to Windows and Apple offerings
    2) They integrate very well with Google Apps for Business
    3) They have a variety of form factors and price points that allow businesses to deploy a relatively standard platform while meeting individual employee needs and controlling costs

    However, Google has far more to fear from Microsoft than from iOS. If Microsoft and its OEM partners can control costs, Windows 8 tablets and hybrids will be obvious choices for Microsoft shops. Management and application compatibility will be too good to pass up.

    To compete in this space, Google must address platform fragmentation, sales channels, desirability of its devices, and a software ecosystem that can't yet compete with Apple's or Microsoft's. Unless that happens, lack of traction in the enterprise will definitely have a negative impact on Android adoption in the aggregate.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Android and Chrome OS merger?

    Google continues to keep Android and Chrome OS as separate platforms, even though Google co-founder Sergey Brin has said that they are destined to merge. Do you see that they will merge and that Android will eventually power desktops and laptops? How critical is that for it to become the next Windows?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Huge danger to Microsoft

    A merging of Android and Chrome OS would be a huge danger to Microsoft as it would unify smartphones, tablets, desktops, and notebooks under a single operating system because it would remove the roadblocks associated with shifting between devices.

    Given that Microsoft has already tried -- and failed -- to do this, and Apple seems to be slowing doing the same with OS X and iOS, it would make sense for Google to do this, and to do it as soon as possible. If Apple does it first, and manages to pull it off, then the iPad's dominance in both the home and enterprise markets could allow it to push more notebooks and desktops into these markets, and hamper Android's chances of success.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    This is sort of the ultimate platform fragmentation, isn't it?

    Both ChromeOS and Android can run on either ARM or x86 hardware and both benefit from synchronization and integration with Google's services. The Chrome browser on Android (and iOS, for that matter) is quite robust and there are great, free productivity apps for the desktop version.

    Why keep them separate? It just creates confusion for consumers. Web apps versus native mobile apps? Browser? Browser OS? Mobile OS with a browser? The company would be very well-served by merging Chrome OS and Android. In fact, this will be the key to the enterprise where Chrome already has considerable traction as a fast, secure browser and Chromebooks have been selling well for companies vested in Google's ecosystem or who might have been considering mobile thin clients.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Android's biggest obstacles?

    Even with its global penetration, what are the biggest obstacles Android still needs to overcome in order to continue its momentum?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    The biggest obstacle facing Android is solving the upgrade challenge.

    Google needs to make getting updates out to users in a timely fashion a priority, even if this means doing what Apple -- and to a lesser extent Microsoft -- has done and cutting the carriers and hardware makers out of the equation.

    Current levels of operating system fragmentation is causing a lot of grief for developers, and rather than getting better, the problem seems to be getting worse with each new release.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Two words: Branding and sales.

    The innovation is there, the market share is there, the functionality is there. And yet iOS continues to carry the mind share and is perceived as the mobile OS of choice for both consumers and businesses. Android needs to have a strong, cohesive brand built around flexibility and security and shed its image as either a geek's playground or the poor-man's iPhone. With the right branding and mind share will come the developers and the enterprise customers, as well as demand from the employees who are workers by day and consumers by night.

    Right now, the Android brand is badly diluted by a fragmented platform and marketing that has failed to convince users of the benefits of Android over iOS. Those that use both mobile operating systems extensively may, in fact, argue that Jelly Bean walks all over iOS in many ways, but most consumers just think Siri is way cool and Apple has a cool factor that Android can't touch.

    Google absolutely also needs to nail down sales and ecommerce. So far, every direct sales launch from Mountain View (with the exception of Chromebooks) has been an unmitigated disaster. Pre- and post-sales support is virtually non-existent and enterprise sales of Android devices can only happen through a limited network of third party resellers. Although direct sales are hardly Google's MO, they're incredibly important in B2B sales.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the most critical factors that could derail Android in the years ahead?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Apple and patents.

    If Cupertino can come up with a cut-priced iPhone that people really want -- in other words, something a little more compelling that an old version -- then that could really derail Android. While there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all smartphone, the iPhone is the closest we have to that. If Apple could come up with a way of shaving $100 off the price of the iPhone, that would be the biggest thing to hit the smartphone market since the iPhone, putting Android growth in jeopardy.

    Patents are also a problem in that settlements with the likes of Apple are eating into hardware maker's already razor-thin profit margins. The more deals that hardware makers have to cut, the less compelling it becomes to continue to invest in Android.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Any of these six factors...

    1) Platform fragmentation and the resulting reluctance of developers to fully embrace the OS
    2) Windows 8
    3) Major Google privacy gaffes
    4) A revolutionary enterprise-ready product line from Apple
    5) Continued failures in direct sales
    6) Major price drops on Apple products or big Apple patent wins that either drive up Android costs or push devices out of the market (or make it very unattractive for OEMs to produce Android devices)

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    OK, we have time for one more...

    What are your predictions for the Android ecosystem over the next 24 months? And, will the enterprise get on board?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    More growth.

    In a little under three years Android has grown from having a four percent unit share of the market to having a commanding 72 percent unit share, crushing the likes of RIM, Windows Phone, and Nokia's Symbian platform. The only platform that has withstood Android is iOS, and it is against this challenge that Google must rise, and rise it will. While Apple has the upper hand when it comes to profits per device, Android has a better market share, and this will allow it to put pressure on Cupertino.

    I also believe that enterprise users will follow over the coming 24 months. Consumer market share always seem to come before gains in the enterprise markets, and with the increasing popularity of BYOD, Android's dominant consumer market share could pay off handsomely.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    An uphill battle for Google

    With Google's current trajectory and the growing hardware/software ecosystem around Windows 8 in the enterprise, Android will continue to struggle in the business space. Some pretty significant changes in their B2B business model will be necessary for Android to catch up to iOS and fend off Windows 8. However, devices like the latest Nexus phones and tablets are very big steps in the right direction. They're fast, work very well, and can't be beat on price. They are also quite manageable from within Google Apps. They represent good deals for businesses, but Windows 8 hybrids are arguably more useful and Apple's reality distortion field is alive and well.

    Chrome OS and Android will almost certainly be merged (and, in many ways, so will the Chrome browser) building a much larger developer community and we will see a continued move towards web apps that run anywhere instead of native apps for specific operating systems.

    In the next two years, Android will be the de facto smartphone and tablet OS for consumers and new devices will expand their entertainment ecosystem. TVs and other consumer screens running Android will be available at such aggressive prices (especially as Google subsidizes their costs to get Google content and ads in front of more and more people) that consumers won't be able to resist them. Particularly entertainment and B2C developers and content creators will gravitate towards Android.

    This is all good news for Google, but the enterprise remains the real prize. It will certainly be a real uphill battle for the company to gain ubiquity across verticals.

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Thank you Adrian and Chris for a Great Debate!

    And thank you readers for joining us. Please check back tomorrow when Adrian and Chris present their closing arguments. And do make a final swing through on Thursday when I deliver my verdict.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Good questions, Jason.

    Good arguments, Chris.

    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

    I am for Yes

    Always a pleasure, gentlemen

    Christopher Dawson

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Readers, one more thing...

    Please consider subscribing to our Great Debate newsletter so you're always informed of current and upcoming debates.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

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  • Of course NOT!

    So what if 3/4 of mobile devices are Android. They are not PCs.

    Now compare the number Chromebooks (or any Android notebook for that matter) to Windows Notebook PCs and we can talk.

    Compare the number of Android tablets to iPads and we can talk.

    It is way to early to judge the success of Windows Phone 8 against Android smartphones, but if you want to compare iPhone sales to Android, be my quest.

    It is also way too early to compare Windows RT to Android or iOS but it looks promising for Microsoft.

    The other point is that, granted, consumer sales of Windows notebooks, among consumers has flattened out but that is because, by definition, consumers "consume". They are not content creators so a lame task-switching operating system is sufficient. Tablet sales not only represents former Windows notebook owners, it represents current Windows notebook owners and it also represents an entirely new group of consumers - lots of pent-up and previously untapped demand.

    The Android tablet is also attractive for its price-point, but can these extremely inexpensive devices stand-up over the long-haul against more expensive devices from Apple and Mictosoft?

    In the enterprise, the picture is quite different. The enterprise uses Windows personal computers (desktop and notebook) extensively. In economics cycles such as this, the enterprise looks for ways to extend the life-cycle of its devices but it does not stop buying them. Further, enterprise interest in tablets is focused on road-warriors and BYOD devices - not in mainstream mission-critical functions.
    M Wagner
    Reply 8 Votes I'm for No
    • you're arguing the wrong point

      The question is a little unclear to what it is asking and you are arguing the wrong point. If you read the original article from a couple weeks ago that recorded over 400 comments, the suggestion is NOT whether Android is replacing Windows as a desktop operating system but rather is Android's operating practice currently resembling what microsoft did in the 80s and 90s? and to that i say yes.

      Microsoft built an empire by creating an operating system and installing it on various devices provided by various OEMs (HP, Gateway, etc) and dominating sales because their software has its hooks in all the hardware vendors. This is exactly what Android is doing right now (except with HTC, Samsung, LG, etc). In no way is the author saying Android is replacing Windows as a desktop operating system. Just the business practices.
      ukjb
      Reply 3 Votes I'm Undecided
      • I'm for Yes

        also i voted yes, this says im undecided. silly voting system.
        ukjb
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • Adrian makes no such connection to previous articles ...

        ... in his opening statement - which was clearly comparing apples-to-oranges. Comparing smartphone sales to tablet sales to notebook sales muddies that waters. He does not take into account anything but numbers of units sold. He might was well compared automobiles to goldfish.
        M Wagner
        Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
        • Fail!

          Looking back at your comment, you were wrong in so many accounts. RT failed. Windows 8 failed.... Bye bye!
          Zippinglou
          Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • Yep

        and more so, Linux is the new Windows: Backbone of the internet on servers all the way down to routers, it powers PC's, Mac OS, iOS, Android, Chromebook and others
        LarsDennert
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
        • Powers MacOS? That is a certified Unix system.

          Apple uses some open source as it suits them and where they can profit from it, but the core of the OS is Unix.

          the funniest part of all of this is that the government paid for the development of Unix during DARPA and other projects in Universites and private research centers around the country in Nixon's quest to have superior computer technology in the U.S.
          In doing so, SUN was started by taxpayer dollars and McNeally was handed the company with ANTI TRUST Exemption . Hmm..

          so bottom line, no matter who is best or on top or whatever, this Linux you talke about it is 100% based on a system that was paid for by U.S. taxpayers into the Billions upon Billions of dollars. It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears from American workers so you coudl have your "Free" OS.

          And the same people have the nerve to be angry about Microsoft who did it all on their own from a tiny company to over a billion PCs worldwide, not once getting AT exemption from the Feds nor Funding from taxpayers into the Billions.

          It's pathetic. Linux is THE most expensive OS in the world. I've alive long enough to know that my tax dollars have gone toward paying off that massive bill to have a decent *X.

          the other thing that is very ironic and comical is the system from which Linux was born was created by the largest Monopoly (except maybe standard Oil?) in our country's history, dwarfing any status Microsoft was wrongly tagged with by a Judge who showed he's not even worthy of night court.

          EOS.
          xuniL_z
          Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • Ok, then the Blog Title is an Epic Fail.

        Is should be is Google the new Microsoft.
        Not is Android the new Windows.

        And Google is not the new Microsoft, they are far more evil. I don't touch Google because I don't want them owning my data. They get some of it anyway simply because you can't use the internet without passing through their monopoly territory and they feel happy and free to take any of that data they see fit and do whatever they like with it.
        Much like the Bush era Feds.

        That's it, the blog should be: Is Google the New Dubya?
        Vote : YES!!!!
        xuniL_z
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • RE: Of course NOT!

      @M Wagner Chrome OS is NOT Android, not even close. Calling a Chromebook an Android notebook is akin to calling a bicycle a car.
      rocktoonz
      Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
    • The real Question

      Does Android have the kind of potential Windows has.
      While Android is still in it's infancy, it is evolving faster than any OS on the planet.
      There is not a lot separating the potential of Android and Windows.
      It is just the maturity of software development that separates them.
      Windows has been all things to lots of people for a very long time and Android is becoming that and more.
      They are both very scalable from embedded systems to client/servers.
      They both come in many form factors and Android even more so with the lighter OS.
      While many argue that Android cannot do the heavy lifting, that is only because the application software is not there yet. The hardware is scalable and can do whatever you want.
      Android is fast becoming the new Windows.
      warboat
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided