A few months ago, I wrote a piece in Tech.pinions asking if “Android is the new Windows?” In the article I pointed out that, when the PC was the center of our universe, Windows was the one constant all PC vendors and developers could back. Today, the OS universe is quite different and there are two other operating systems — iOS and Android — that have divided the attention of OEMs and app developers. In sheer terms, Android has become the dominant device OS for tech products around the world.
For the PC industry, the rise of mobile, especially smartphones, has impacted the tech market. While demand for PCs has declined, demand for smartphones has risen exponentially. But there is an interesting trend developing within the Android community that, in a strange way, could actually be the PC industry’s savior. One of the things we know from our research is, for over 1.5 billion people, their first introduction to personal computing has come through a smartphone. More specifically, an inexpensive smartphone that gets them connected and gives them access to tons of apps, but is usually of poor quality with various technological limitations. We know many of these people will eventually upgrade to a better smartphone and this is where Obi Mobile and Motorola are positioning their high quality, low priced phones.
However, there is a pretty serious school of thought developing about this audience that posits the idea that, at some point in the next two to four years, they may actually want to buy something with a bigger screen that has even more functionality. This school thinks this device most likely will be a laptop, not a tablet. Part of the reason they think so is 5.5” and 6” smartphones have already impacted demand for tablets and, for the most, smartphones with large screens already serve as a tablet as well as a smartphone. On the other hand, we know from research many of these people are very familiar with a laptop and, in a lot of cases, have coveted a laptop as a better tool for them to help educate their kids, manage media and perhaps even help run a family business with a better tool.
But, for me, the big rub with this idea is the leap of faith that says, if they were to move to a laptop, they would want a Windows-based portable computer given that the only OS they have ever used is Android. What makes more sense is to create a version of Android that can be used on a laptop. Yes, this has been tried before with the Motorola Atrix but the timing and implementation was wrong. It turns out, a few companies are already thinking along these lines and at least one solid Android OS that can be used on a PC is actually ready for the market now. It is coming from Jide, founded by three Google employees. They were part of the Android team but left to create a very rich version of Android that can run on a PC. In fact, they are already selling a 2 in 1 Android portable for $400 and taking pre-orders now.
The Jide OS is called ReMix and it runs all Android apps and includes the Google Play store. That suggests to us Google has actually blessed this version. Check out their site and click on the demo. You will see it runs Powerpoint and other Office apps as well as Android apps in native form. Our sources tell us Blackberry is also doing a dedicated Android OS that is highly secure and there is at least one other major company in the software space doing something similar.
These are interesting developments and could have ramifications for PC makers. Today, their OS loyalty is still with Microsoft although all have broken ranks to support Chromebooks, too. But we could see legitimate demand by smartphone users who will, in the near future, want to graduate to a laptop. In this case, I would be more inclined to think a move sideways to an Android laptop they are familiar with makes more sense. If so, PC makers would support Android on a PC in a heartbeat. This could be an impetus to actually help grow demand for laptops and PCs in the future.
This is an area to keep a close eye on. While Android today is a mobile OS, its reach beyond mobile, thanks to Jide and others, suggests its role could eventually be much broader. The next logical place for Android to go is the laptop and, perhaps, even a low-cost desktop.