March 24, 2014, 10:53 AM — Android seems to be everywhere these days and that includes the desktop. Yes, a version of Android is being developed as a desktop replacement for Windows. LinuxInsider examines Android-x86 RC 1 and finds that it's coming along nicely. But can it really replace Windows? The skeptics will say no, but I think it can...eventually.
LinuxInsider put this potential Linux distro contender through the paces of performing routine work and casual computing tasks. For surfing the Web and handling email, social networking posts and household record-keeping, a desktop or laptop Android OS works well. Could it eventually replace a Microsoft Windows, a desktop Linux distribution or the Mac OS X? Maybe!
This Android-x86 Project is an unofficial initiative to port Google's Android mobile operating system to run on computers powered by Intel and AMD x86 processors, including netbooks and laptops. The project is maintained by Chih-Wei Huang, who described the 4.4-RC1 version for PCs as a stable version based on Google's Android 4.4.2 (KitKat-MR1) release.
Image credit: LinuxInsider
Right now it's very easy to scoff at the idea of Android becoming a replacement for Windows on the desktop. After all what could a mobile operating system offer to desktop users? Well, quite a lot actually but it won't happen immediately and there may be complications if Google doesn't like it.
It's important to remember is that there are millions of people using Android on their mobile phones and tablets around the world. They've become quite used to computing without Windows anywhere in sight, so taking the next step to Android on their desktop is much easier now than it would have been ten years ago when it was much more of a Windows world.
This is what makes Android on the desktop so powerful, and potentially much more of a threat to Windows than any other Linux distribution. I know that there will be some Linux users out there who wonder why we need yet another desktop distribution. Well, we don't really need it. But it has the potential to dwarf all existing desktop distros if it appeals to the gigantic Android user base that exists in the mobile world.
Having Android on the desktop could also provide Android mobile users with a more seamless experience, similar to the one experienced by iOS and OS X users in the world of Apple. Why bother with Windows at all if you can have Android across all of your computing devices? Oh sure, some users will want to keep Windows for one reason or another but there will probably be many who will dump it the first chance they get.
There is a potential onion in the ointment here, however. Apparently the Android-x86 project is not an official Google product. Google is having quite a bit of success selling Chrome OS on Chromebooks. The company might not want Android anywhere near desktops or laptops, since it has greater control of Chrome OS than it does of Android. A successful version of Android for desktops and laptops could potentially cut into Chromebook sales, and Google might not like that.
It's still much too early to make any final judgements about Android on the desktop. But it must be scaring the pants off of Microsoft right now. Android came out of nowhere and took the vast majority of mobile market share, thus making Microsoft a mobile also-ran that few people care about.
Can you imagine what would happen if Android ultimately did the same thing on desktop computers? I wonder if Microsoft could even survive for long as a company if its flagship Windows franchise was destroyed by Android on the desktop.
Why Chromebooks are better than Windows
Muktware has a useful and interesting introduction to Chromebooks, and explains why you don't need Windows any more.
Since I have a full-time Chromebook user at home (my wife) I have the first-hand experience with Chromebook and I see no reason to buy a Windows PC when Chromebooks offer so many advantages. If you are planning to update your laptop and your use-case is similar to that of my wife – Chromebook is the way to go. There is just no need to buy a Windows PC.
So why would you choose a Chromebook over a Windows PC? What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages? There are many advantages that Chromebooks have over Windows PCs.
1. Familiar interface
2. Easy to use
4. Maintenance free, free future upgrades
5. No data loss
6. Grandma and Kids proof
7. No virus or malware
8. Has all the applications you need
9. Offline work
Image credit: Muktware
Nobody can deny the popularity of Chromebooks. As I write this they are burning up the sales charts on Amazon's list of bestselling laptops, and sales show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
I have to admit that Chromebook sales took me by surprise. I hadn't really considered the value and appeal of these devices. But they are clearly winning over users left and right, and they are beginning to put a real dent in sales of Windows-based laptops.
I suspect we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the popularity of Chromebooks.
Ubuntu tablets will be released with Ubuntu phones
Muktware also reports that Canonical will release Ubuntu tablets at the same time as Ubuntu phones.
All those who have been eagerly waiting to lay their hands on Ubuntu tablets may not have to wait too long. Canonical founder, Mark Shuttleworth has said that Ubuntu tablets will arrive in the market ‘simultaneously’ with the first set of Ubuntu smartphones.
This is a very wise decision on Canonical's part. Let's face it, smartphones are great but sometimes you just need a larger screen. So being able to buy an Ubuntu tablet at the same time as an Ubuntu phone will hold a lot of appeal for some users. It will be very interesting to see how the Ubuntu tablets compare to the latest crop of iOS and Android tablets in terms of features and pricing.
What's your take on all this? Tell me in the comments below.
The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of ITworld.