DSC_2610_large_verge_medium_landscape.jpg

It is one thing for you to get your chocolate in my peanut butter. After all, they are two great tastes that taste great together. But what happens when Windows and Android dance the Watusi? Who are the people clamoring for the Frankenstein notebook? Are these actually two great tastes? Do they actually taste great together, making a whole that is better than the sum of its parts? Because more manufacturers will be putting out these products this year, we are going to be finding out real soon.

I suppose the first question that any good engineer should ask is, what problem is this solving. Which OS is improved by getting the other involved? I am thinking about this from an Android perspective. For the most part, they are users who do not buy tablets, not even the cheap ones. So far, Android's best answer to the iPad is the phablet. These giant phones are subsidized by the carriers, therefore, Android users do not have to pay for a bigger piece of glass. Since Android users are not carrying around tablets, then they are not trying to converge two devices into one. The Android PC does not make sense as a convergence device.

Let's assume that most Android users prefer using Windows. Let's further assume that the ones who can afford it already have a PC. What does adding Android to the machine get them that is unavailable to Windows? Since these dual-boot notebooks have no phone capability, I have no idea. The app ecosystem is the only thing that comes to mind. If one has a large library of Android apps, they may wish to use those instead of Windows-based apps. But that makes little sense when you stop and think about it. Those Android apps were made for 4“ to 6” touch screens. They simply do not scale well to notebook size. Many don't even scale well to large phablet size. Also, it is not as if one could run Android apps on the Windows side of the device. One OS has to be closed for the other to be active. Since Android users already have a better platform for running Android apps in their pockets, I am unclear on the advantages of running them on a system not optimized for the apps.

Perhaps this makes more sense from the Windows perspective. A lot of Windows users love iPads, and don't like Windows 8. That is a deadly combination for Microsoft. Windows users are forced to go with an Alternative OS because Microsoft cannot make a desirable, touch OS. Based on sales numbers, we know that these Windows users prefer iPads to Android tablets by a large margin. So what they really want on their touchscreen PC is iOS. But since they can never get that, they will be forced to settle for Android. Anyone who buys this product is likely someone who is not completely happy with either system. That does not bode well for the success of the product.

I believe we can better understand this product category if we put ourselves in the shoes of the manufacturers. The PC OEMs are the biggest losers in the Windows/iPad battle. Windows is declining. People hate Windows 8, and don't want to have to buy machines running that OS. OEMs can't sell machines running iOS or Mac OS, therefore, they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. What lies between those spaces is the third alternative, no, not Linux: Android.

Over the past several months, there has been an explosion of Chromebooks on the market. These Chromebooks are being produced by OEMs that traditionally produced only Windows PCs. But Chromebooks are cheap, and generate little profit, like netbooks before them. Since Windows is no longer driving PC sales to the degree that it was, Chromebooks do nothing to improve the bottom line, and they can't sell Macs or iOS devices, what's left? Android! They are so desperate, they are pushing notebooks with an operating system that was not designed for notebooks. That's pretty bad for everyone involved, including, especially the buyer.

What this means for Microsoft is that their dominance in the desktop OS is over, either that, or the desktop OS no longer matters. It does Microsoft no good to own 80% of an irrelevant market. The mobile operating systems have arrived in force, and people are voting with their dollars. Manufacturers are the trailing indicator that this has already happened. They are now trying to offer users what they really want: something that does not run Windows, at least, not exclusively. This also means that the future looks very bright for Apple if they come out with the iPad Pro, and make it more of a hybrid device. Suddenly, that product becomes a bigger threat to Microsoft than anyone first imagined.

David Johnson

Comment