Why Google Needs to Back Android for Large 2-in-1’s and Laptops

Last week, I wrote a piece on Tech.pinions that pointed out Gen Y, Gen Z and Millennials have all grown up with iPhones and iOS has become their main mobile operating system. I reasoned that, when this generation moves into the business world, it is most likely they will want tools that favor iOS rather than have to move to and learn a completely new OS such as Windows. I believe Apple has created the iPad Pro with this in mind and I would not be surprised if, at some point, Apple even does a touch-based clamshell with iOS as its operating system. There will always be some who prefer a clamshell to a 2-in-1 form factor.

But using this logic, it is reasonable to ask the question of whether Android could also be the OS a portion of this younger generation wants to take with them into the business world? Although iOS dominates as an OS for most Millennials in our country, Android actually outsells iPhones around the world. Many Gen Y and Gen Z, even in the US, cut their computing teeth on Android instead of iOS. Would they, like their iOS counterparts, prefer more powerful Android tools to take with them into the world of business?

I believe the answer to this is squarely in Google’s court. Today, the Android OS world is still highly fragmented. Apple has a distinct edge over Google because they own the hardware, software and apps ecosystem and have brought a level of important continuity between iOS upgrades and their ability to interact with other iOS and Mac devices in their ecosystems of apps and services. But Goggle still has multiple versions of their own Android as well as non-Google certified versions floating around. That means some Android apps work fine with some versions of Android, while others do not. They have also been weak on how they update Android, although it is getting better.

The bigger roadblock I see with this is Google’s tight grip on the certification process for Android and what an OEM partner must accept in order to receive Google’s blessing or certification for their Android devices. Most Android hardware players want to add their own tweaks to the UI and try and differentiate it from other vendors. Google makes that difficult for them, given their demands that they can use these partners as a vehicle to drive ads and revenue to Google. I believe Google needs to loosen their grip on these controls over Android if this mobile OS has any chance of getting this younger generation to take this OS with them as they move into the business world.

A month back I wrote a piece asking “Could Android save the PC industry?”. I wrote about a Chinese company named Jide, founded by three guys formerly part of the Google Android team, who have created a version of Android for use on a laptop. The Jide OS is called Remix, it runs Android apps, and it includes the Google Play store, which suggests Google has sort of blessed this version. Check out its site and click on the demo. But the operative phrase is “sort of blessed by Google.” In the past, Google did not want Android to be used on anything other than a smartphone or a tablet. But with Jide, Google has slightly loosened their grip and allowed this platform to have a type of certification that lets them deploy the Google Store. It still not clear whether Google actually endorses this version or that they gave these Ex-Googlers some type of special dispensation.

Google seems hell bent to make Chrome OS their desktop and laptop OS and push their Web browser to be the OS that transcends their tablet and smartphone Android platforms. There is one problem with this. What makes iOS and Android so appealing is each has over one million apps in their stores and Gen Z, Gen Y and the Millennials crave the versatility an app ecosystem gives them. Add to that the fact these operating systems are the ones they use day in and day out with a plethora of apps that meet pretty much every digital need they have and you can see why taking their mobile OS of choice in larger form factors into the business world makes sense.

As I pointed out in the article on iOS being the enterprise OS of Millennials, Apple seems to understand this. The new iPad Pro as a 2-in-1 makes it easy for this demographic to go from their current mobile-first approach of using technology to making it possible for them to use a powerful new mobile form factor with the same OS in their jobs. Couple this with next-generation iOS applications, such as the one’s IBM is creating for iOS, and why would they want or need to move to Windows if they can do the same tasks as powerfully and efficiently on iOS in a 2-in-1 form factor or lightweight clamshell?

Google needs to understand this. I am not suggesting they abandon Chrome since it is getting serious traction in education due to its low costs and web-based curriculum being designed for it. But I am saying Google needs to see that, for this younger generation, Android may need to be able to move out of its smartphone and tablet confines and into new designs more acceptable for use as a business tool when this younger generation moves into corporate America.

Google’s new Android 10″ tablet with keyboard, the Pixel C, is a step in the right direction. But this screen is too small for serious productivity. This move seems more like a knee jerk reaction to Apple’s iPad Pro launch a few weeks back. You can bet Apple is going to put serious dollars into marketing the iPad Pro to business users and work even closer with business app makers to shape enterprise apps.

If Google even wants a chance to capture a younger generation and move Android into business as they hit the workforce, Google needs to heartily endorse the idea of Android in large 2-in-1’s and laptops unless they want to let Apple own this younger crowd — many of whom are already switching to iOS.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

6 thoughts on “Why Google Needs to Back Android for Large 2-in-1’s and Laptops”

  1. I completely agree.
    It was a very nice surprise to see them adopt a paper aspect ratio for the screen but disappointed that they chose the smaller A5 size over the standard A4 that’s used for pretty much all documents.

  2. I’d sure like for Google to be more aggressive about moving Android forward in desktop/laptop scenarios. Especially since so little is required: better default right-click action (contextual menu, not “back”…OEMs are free to change that, and have done so), keyboard shortcuts, a PlayStore category for desktop-appropriate apps, and a better default way to handle zooming in/out (ditto, OEMs can and do change that)… I think floating windows are already in the pipeline, maybe even resizable.

    ChromeOS does seem to have enthusiastic users. I think it’s even simpler than Android, and updates are not an issue. I’ll have to try it out.

    I’m a bit puzzled by a few of the article’s assertions:

    – “That means some Android apps work fine with some versions of Android, while others do not.”. Like what ? I tend to keep my old devices around, so I have the gamut of Android versions from 4.0 to 5.1. I’ve yet to come across an app that doesn’t work on all of them. Pay and Wear do need 4.4+, but all my regular apps and games work the same on all versions ?

    – “Most Android hardware players want to add their own tweaks to the UI […]. Google makes that difficult for them”. Huh ? I’m not aware of Google having any objections to OEMs doing whatever to Android, as long as they 1- don’t break compatibility with the appstore (that does preclude resizable windows) and 2- keep Google’s stuff pristine, default, and prominent. Nothing about the UI, which is being extensively messed with: Samsung did split-screen and floating windows 3 years ago, as well as Pen input, there are “like-Windows (XP or 8)” UIs, several “like-iPhone”, there are Google-approved (ie, with Google Play) desktops and laptops, some over 5 years old (Toshiba AC100) with UI tweaks.

    – Looking at Jide’s video, I don’t think they’re breaking any of those rules or getting special treatment: they have a “like-Windows” launcher, a few custom apps that implement that same look&feel, and probably a way to launch 3rd-party apps in a smaller “phone” floating, but non-resizable, window. That does not break compatibility: the apps are unaware they’re only running on a portion of the screen, any app should run with no modifications. If they did it like Samsung in 2012, there’s also an optional API to make apps resizable. And Google is, always has been, and always will be, fine with that: non-aware apps still work in a fixed-size windows, and aware apps work better, in a resizable window. Works the same way with Samsung’s pen: there’s basic support in all apps (clicking, handwriting keyboard) and extended support via a custom API (pressure detection, pen button handling, handwriting outside of the keyboard area). The hard part is getting developers to use your API, getting it past Google is automatic.

    – I’m not sure Jide’s “like-Windows” launcher is a good idea: why change mobile-natives’ habits ? Floating phone-size windows sounds useful, I’m sure we’ll see more of it soon ^^

    Many people around me are dreading having to go from their Android tablet back to their PC. I threw in a $7 Bluetooth Sony Playstation keyboard and a BT mouse I had laying around with my mom’s birthday Lenovo Yoga 10 tablet… she’s been dissing and avoiding her Windows PC ever since. I really didn’t antipate that $15 of extra last minute peripherals would be such a huge change in usage. I’ll make everyone get a keyboard and mouse with every tablet from now on. Pity Sony’s keyboard sale is over,… luckily I still got 5 of them ^^

    Also, now that Apple’s large tablet is out, I’m hoping/waiting for larger Android tablets at a reasonnable price to come out. Currently there is a way overpriced Samsung 12.2″, a barely-alive HP, a flawed and discontinued Lenovo (these 3 over a year old), and Jide’s 11.6″. Sources in the industry tell me the screens are available, it’s a matter of OEMs moving forward.

    1. I just double-checked the system requirements for some high-end big-name software:
      – MS Office:4.0+ https://support.office.com/en-us/article/System-Requirements-for-OneNote-and-Office-Mobile-for-Android-Phones-fd4591f2-342c-4ba9-a338-947b2cb6e4aa
      – Adobe Photoshop Mix: couldn’t find official req sheet, the PlayStore does say “compatible with all my devices”, so at most 4.0+ too.
      – all the “mobile-native” apps seem to be 4.0+ too (didn’t check all of them, but FB, twitter, Skype…).

      So I’m really at a loss about which apps you’re talking about when you say some apps don’t work on older versions. I’m sure there are some, but aren’t they utterly marginal ? What app do you have in mind that doesn’t run on 4yr-old Android 4.0 and/or 2-yo 4.4 ?

  3. great article…. Just read it on my chromeos ASUS flip in tablet mode..on a train….(mobile)..for the consumer I can see android…. For corporate and institutional I have to wonder ….

  4. “I would not be surprised if, at some point, Apple even does a touch-based clamshell with iOS as its operating system.”

    Did you ever use an eMate 300? It was essentially that, but using the Newton OS. There were a few people who really liked it, but it didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

    “There will always be some who prefer a clamshell to a 2-in-1 form factor.”

    There were many people who preferred a CLI to using a mouse and windowing OS. Those people either got used to using mice/trackpads/etc., stopped using computers, or died. (Sure, you can use Linux, but seriously, how many people boot straight to the console and never fire up a window manager so that they can open multiple terminal windows?)

    Even though I personally prefer using a detached keyboard and mouse when at a desk, I can tell that there’s no practical advantage to having a permanently attached keyboard on an OS that is primarily designed for use with touch. All you’re doing is giving up the option of detaching the keyboard when you don’t need it, saving weight and bulk.

    I would be very surprised if Apple ever does an iOS touch-based clamshell with a permanently attached keyboard. I wouldn’t be so surprised, though, if Apple makes an iOS device with a *detachable* keyboard that in “clamshell mode” is virtually indistinguishable in feel from something with a permanently attached keyboard. Then there’s simply no point whatsoever for making the keyboard permanently attached.

    1. Stangely, ultrabooks are smaller and lighter than tablet+keyboard, so if sufficient buyers always need both, a clamshell might make sense. Plus the margins are bound to be better than on an Intel MacBook Air. And maybe it’s not just about the keyboard, but more battery, more ports, storage ports… Oooops, I’m thinking about Asus not Apple ^^

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *