As I read the news yesterday about how Acer’s CEO, JT Wang is warning Microsoft to think twice about their Surface project, I’ll admit I was a bit annoyed. I’m still trying to understand why Acer is so worried. I wish I could say that competing against Microsoft is like competing against another OEM, but to Acer’s advantage, Microsoft doesn’t have the same level of experience in industrial design, manufacturing and distribution as say, HP for example.
I honestly don’t blame Microsoft for their approach. Very few OEMs were interested in selling Windows RT, and it only made sense that if people didn’t understand how important it is, Microsoft will take the responsibility to show them.
Now, an even more interesting remark, is when Wang questioned if they “Should rely on Microsoft, or should they find other alternatives”, which sounded fair to me until I begun to really analyze what he said. It spurred the question: what other alternatives?
Think about it for a minute. Apple will never license either OS X or iOS. Ubuntu, while a solid competitor based on Linux, still has a name that only a mother could love in times when people do judge a book by its cover. Chrome OS is yet another example of a pet project that is still too early for its time, and if you don’t believe me, ask Google why they all use Macs for work instead of Chrome books. So again, what other alternative? Amazing as it may seem, in this year of our Lord 2012, the world still has only one desktop operating system they can rely on: Microsoft Windows.
For a minute there, I sat in disbelief thinking about how so much talent in this planet has not been able to produce a worthy competitor that they’re willing to license to OEMs. As I did, it immediately hit me that there actually is a solution. An operating system that was born as an evident need of the Smartphone Alliance, at times when Apple was prepping to create yet another Monopoly in the smartphone market. The answer is Android.
My easiest way to describe Android is genius. It gave all OEMs the opportunity to compete with a robust operating system that eventually expanded to become the most successful ecosystem in the mobile world. But what really makes it smart is the fact that it’s quickly grown to adapt to other form factors. Android is now on smartphones, tablets, watches and even that Nexus Q thing that even Google can’t figure out.
The point is, Android now works on Intel chips, it understands USB, physical keyboards, mice, HDMI out, and well, the only real thing standing between the idea and a real Android PC is somebody willing to do it. The other point is that whether Microsoft likes it or not, they’ve already taken the first step to compete with Android anyways in the tablet space, so let’s just say Google has a motive. Here’s why I think Android would succeed:
Apps, lots and lots of apps
Since we’re more of a tablet and smartphone website, here’s the biggest reason why I think something like this matters to us. My biggest complaint about App stores is having more than one of them for the devices I use. Even if I just bought Asphalt 7 on my iPad, that purchase doesn’t work on the version that’s available in the Mac App Store. Imagine having a PC where all the smartphone apps and tablet apps you already purchased also work?
Surely the biggest caveat with having Android power a PC is that we all need PCs for more powerful tasks like running office apps, productivity, etc. Here’s the second reason why I think Android is genius though. Since all the apps run in a virtual machine, I’m sure that porting any app to an Intel based architecture wouldn’t require much effort, and vice versa, though I’m no expert on the subject so please feel free to correct me here.
The idea is that if Android was bold enough to evolve into the PC market, then developers would have broader tools to provide even better apps for tablets and Smartphones. The result would be that even though the physical constraints of a smartphone will never allow you to be as productive as you can be with a tablet or a PC, the constraint would no longer be software related.
Android is free and just one
One of the biggest problems with Windows is obviously the share of versions you have to deal with. You have to choose between a broader set of features or a lesser one using your wallet. The greatest thing about Android is that since nobody in Google is making any money by licensing it, they don’t really waste their time making a less powerful version of it.
I’ll give you a key example of why this is important. I’m honestly tired of reading all these comments about how great Windows 8 “will be” and how awesome the Microsoft Surface will be because it’ll run a full version of Windows at an affordable price. Stop right there. Do you really think that Windows RT will be a full version of Windows? Have you read about all the features that will be stripped away from the RT version of Office? The only reason people love it is because the Consumer Preview is a full version of Windows 8. I’m sure that once Microsoft gives you the limited version at the cheaper price you dream about, a lot of that love will slip away. With Android, there won’t be such a thing as a cheaper version of it. Unless the OEM decides to block a specific feature, you’ll get the full version of it no matter how cheap or expensive the tablet or computer you buy running it will be.
Google is faster than Microsoft
Microsoft has seriously become as slow as a big white elephant when it comes making their software better. I wish I could say that they have a reason to be slow based on quality, but I’ll stop before you all laugh at me with Windows Vista. Windows XP was launched in 2002, Vista in 2007, Windows 7 in 2009 and Windows 8 is almost out of the oven in 2012. It sometimes makes you wonder if they would be just as slow if they had better competition. Android by contrast was launched in 2008 and has seen a software update with major improvements every year, or at times even twice a year. How much have you paid to upgrade your Android device to a later version? Try answering the same question about Windows.
The bottom line
We actually debated whether to consider Windows 8 a subject to cover here. We ended up doing so since, even though the market boundaries are clear, Microsoft is persistent in making everything turn into a PC. I hope they know what they’re getting into with a competitor like Google and a tool like Android.
Would you buy an Android computer as your only computer? I feel that Android has grown to dominate more and more devices in my household, so I’d be one of the people that would say yes. If Google figured out a way to create a fully integrated ecosystem between the PC, the Tablet and the Smartphone, where I only pay for apps once and I can be productive anywhere, I’d pay for it. If Google also finally figured out how to push those Android controlled lights that we saw at Google I/O 2011, I’m sure we’ll have even more reasons to switch.
OEMs are in the business of selling products, and the smaller their fixed or variable costs are, the cheaper their products would be to you. I’m sure that if they haven’t already considered this, Acer will definitely be one of the first.
Once again, this article in no way plans to stir people away from the Microsoft Surface. I do feel that Microsoft has a compelling reason to do it, and I kind of like the idea. The point here is that the world needs more competitors. The Smartphone market is proof of how the world has benefited from real competition. Android, I believe, would be of much benefit to the world if Google decides to expand it.
Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments.