Android desktops arrive as Lenovo eyes your living room

Monday Morning Opener: As CES 2014 kicks off Lenovo launches an Android all-in-one. Android desktops plus Chromebooks could give Microsoft's Windows 8 franchise a headache.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Lenovo on Sunday rolled out an Android all-in-one home computer designed to be a living room multimedia PC. Should Android-powered PCs do well it would further disrupt the PC market and splinter the operating system selection a bit more.

The company's first Android home computer, the Lenovo N308, has a price tag that may spur some interest. The N308 starts at $450 and has a 19.5 inch 1600x900 touchscreen desktop.

According to Lenovo, the general idea is to put the PC at the center of folks who already use Android for browsing, apps and entertainment on their smaller screen devices. The N308 runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and is powered by a Nvidia Tegra processor.

The N308 has up to 500 GB of storage, a Webcam, keyboard, mouse and integrated battery with 3 hours of life. The N308 can stand or lay flat should you want to use it as a big tablet.

Add it up and Lenovo's N308 is an inexpensive spin on its larger tabletop PC, the Horizon 2, which is 27-inches and runs Windows 8 and the PC maker's custom interface. Horizon 2, an interesting living room addition that starts at $1,499, is basically a big tabletop tablet, that's positioned more upmarket than the Android all-in-one PC.

The N308 was outlined as part of Lenovo's larger play for the digital home. Lenovo also announced a personal cloud storage unit dubbed Beacon starting at $199 to share content and media in a home as well as the A740 all-in-one desktop starting at $1,499.

lenovo all in one android


What's interesting is that PC makers are pushing toward Android after seeing Chromebooks sell well. Why? Chromebooks remain the domain of Google. With Android PCs, hardware manufacturers can customize more, add security features and preserve the application ecosystem. Google has all the control with the Chrome OS. 

Rumor has it that Google has been working with various PC vendors to launch Android product lines.

For Windows 8, Android PCs and laptops could be a royal pain. Sure, Android PCs won't have Microsoft Office, but there are plenty of editing and viewing apps. Games on Android are plentiful and you could do worse things than buy a PC for $450.

In other words, should these early Android PC makers get any traction product roadmaps will expand. If Google can give Microsoft headaches with Chrome OS PCs just imagine what it could do with Android and Chrome OS hardware. Google's game is clear: Upend Microsoft's operating system domination.

For PC buyers, acquiring and Android computer may not be that much of a stretch. Android will be more familiar to customers than Chrome OS in many cases. And if all else fails, someone could use Lenovo's all in one as pricey dumb monitor attached to a laptop.

Since we're in the post-PC era, hardware manufacturers are going to try a little bit of everything to sell devices and preserve some profit margin. Android seems like a good experimental OS for PC makers. There's not a lot to lose and potential gains ahead. Rest assured other PC vendors will hop on the Android bandwagon.

ZDNet's Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. As a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the United States.

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