We are hearing from a lot of vendors that the idea of dual booting Windows and Android is a hot topic of discussion these days. Asus and Samsung both have laptops on the market that include Windows 8 and Android and the thinking behind this is that Windows Metro apps have less than 100K in their store and by using a dual boot of both operating systems, vendors can deliver Android apps on Windows machines to make Windows laptops and PCs more desirable. Remember, they only want to push hardware and they think this will help their ability to do so.
Asus gives users a toggle switch like key to go between operating systems while Samsung switches seamlessly between the two and even pins Android apps to the Windows 8 start screen. “Users will not only get access to Android apps via Google Play but will also be able to transfer files to share folders and files from Windows 8 to Android, truly marrying the mobile and PC experiences,” Samsung said in their launch press release.
The Need to Stand Out
Let’s be clear what is going on here. Vendors have gotten desperate to differentiate since all PCs and laptops pretty much look and work the same these days. Everyone is trying to find a hook to get his or her new product into the jaw of the consumer. This is especially true with the PC crowd where competition between the big PC vendors are coming in contact with no name brands, especially in emerging markets, and in some countries causing a real decline in demand of name brand products. But, the history of dual boot systems has been littered with failures. The only one with legs so far has been the Parallels solution of delivering Windows on Mac’s. While it works and has done well, their audience is by no means a large one and much of their demand has come from business users.
Another thing that is going on is that demand for PCs on a whole is down. IDC and others believe demand for PCs and laptops will be off 7% over last year and down at least another 7% -9% the following year. PC vendors are becoming desperate to find new form factors and if possible, software tweaks to drive demand for their products that are core to many of their company’s survival.
But perhaps the bigger issue behind this Windows/Android dual boot idea is the failure by Microsoft to get the software developer community excited and incented to write Metro Apps in large numbers. With such a small offering of Windows Touch based apps, no wonder users who have Win 8 systems would even consider finding ways to get Android apps working on Windows machines.
Truth be told, users can do this already without the need of a dual booted OS. Bluestacks has offered a way to put Android apps on Windows for almost two years now and in fact they already have over a million users doing just that. Many vendors have had the chance to put the Bluestacks Player on their systems but there has been a question of whether Bluestacks violates a key element of the Android anti-fragmentation license so most have opted to not piss off Google. A similar problem exists with Microsoft. One vendor told me that if they put the Bluestacks player on their PC’s, Microsoft would cut off any future marketing funds. While I understand Microsoft’s position and that they would rather try and boost the development of their apps for their own systems, the fact is that getting any serious momentum for developing Windows 8 apps is lagging far behind and it is folly to think that they can scale up their store offerings anytime fast, let alone ever really compete with IOS and Android touch based apps stores.
It seems crazy that both Google and Microsoft would veer away from Bluestacks given its potential help for their market goals. In Google’s case, they could offer Android apps and get millions of Windows users acquainted with Android as well as tap into the ad potential they would get from these new users. For Microsoft, it would give their users access to hundred’s of thousands of apps that they will never get as Windows 8 Metro apps and bring them into their own fenced in Windows environment and find ways to leverage these for their own ad and search links.
This heightened interest in putting Android on Windows machines seems to be quite a serious movement at the time. And at the moment, the vendors are choosing dual boot over Bluestacks’s approach, something that adds cost to their system and threatens user pushback if this approach taxes the system and makes these dual booted PC’s and laptops preform sluggishly.
I am not sure if these dual boot systems will be DOA or not. History has shown that dual booted operating systems on a single device platform do not do well and I suspect that these hardware implementations could have only minimal interest with consumers.
But Microsoft should learn from this dual boot push that users want hundreds of thousands of apps to use on Windows machines and if Microsoft can’t give it to them, users may look elsewhere to get them. Microsoft needs to see that this does not bode well for them, especially if Android and Chrome merge as we expect them to do in the next few years and Chrome OS based system with Android Apps on them deliver much more than Windows 8 could ever give them.
You should keep an eye on this area of dual booted Windows/Android systems. Whether they are successful or not, it shows that vendors and consumers want more Apps for their PC’s and Microsoft is not delivering.