Right now the Consumer Electronics Show has unofficially been kicked off by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich who spoke yesterday at the event’s pre-show keynote. While Krzanich’s presentation was this mix of future projects around mobility, sensors, controls, and platforms, it was Intel’s DualOS initiative that stood out.
DualOS is Intel’s initiative allowing Windows and Android to sit on the same system and allow almost instant switching between the operating systems. A similar program is going on with Intel’s competitor AMD who has signed a deal to work with software vendor BlueStacks which allows users to run Android applications on their PCs. Both initiatives stem from the fact that the Personal Computing space has slowed down in terms of sales; losing out to the growth of tablets. Windows 8 hasn’t been the solution many hoped it would be. So now PC makers and vendors are looking for any solution to the declining sales.
I can see Intel, AMD, and PC makers looking at Windows 8 which has had slow adoption with both users and developers and thinking adding Android could work filling out the app gap and giving them a mobile platform they could sell easily. Android is after all the biggest mobile system out. It has the application numbers and developers. Its also free and allows OEMs to differentiate their products.
The one fly in this ointment is going to be Microsoft. I think this year we might see DualOS and the BlueStacks deal bringing issues to a head in the PC industry. The growth of mobile, specifically tablets, has forced a lot of the traditional PC makers to rethink strategies. Its not loss on any of them that the emergence of tablets has left them playing catchup. So they are moving logically to Android which is the mass market OS in mobile. I also think Microsoft’s entering the market with the Surface line and buying Nokia’s hardware group has also been a factor in these dramatic shifts.
Intel and AMD are in more precarious positions because the mobile space revolves around ARM. Apple makes its own chips and the rest of the mobile landscape is under Qualcomm and NVIDIA. Intel adapted Android a while back, practically dumping its side OS. AMD recently announced support for the mobile OS. The chip makers’ backing of Android will be seen as a blow to Microsoft and a clear vote of no confidence in Windows’ ability to get mobile.
I don’t see how running Android on top of Windows will solve the problems facing OEMs, Intel, and AMD. I talked earlier of the perceived benefit of DualOS and its ilk but lets discuss the downsides. Android is a solid mobile OS on phones and tablets, up to 7 inches. Android does have issues in terms of scaling to larger screens; not the OS but the majority of apps which were written for phones. Until recently Android tablets sold poorly which was why some OEMs were looking to Windows 8. Lastly the PC industry has been plagued by saturation and commoditization that has led to low margins. Android and Google’s other OS don’t solve this. The biggest reason Android would work would be because it has the apps.
Microsoft and Google so far have been mum on the subject. Microsoft is at CES doing things in the background (CES is after all a trade show) and Google is there to promote its new push into Automotive software. I cannot imagine Microsoft is having a good time with its partners deemphasizing Windows products for Android and now dual booting it in lieu of helping them push its own mobile platform. To be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if the news coming out of CES doesn’t push Microsoft further down the devices path. The company has the technical know how in house to make chips (and not just for ARM but also x/86) and hardware. So for me the question is increasingly is what will be the trigger to make Microsoft become a serious hardware vendor.
I also really wonder why this was simpler to do and less confusing than encouraging development on the Windows Run Time (winRT) or using Windows on ARM (Windows RT). Creating DualOS has to be causing some conflict within the WinTel alliance. So I guess in the end my summation of events is DualOS looks to be the straw that will break the camel’s back. All we have to do now is wait.