The Consumer Electronics Show slated for early next year in Las Vegas may put Microsoft in a difficult position. According to a report from the leading tech website Computerworld, computer manufacturers facing the brunt of low PC sales may launch systems which are capable of running Windows and Android simultaneously.
One can call it as a rebellion of sorts, but a few OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) are planning to roll out a computer system dubbed as the “PC Plus”, which will be capable of running Microsoft’s Windows OS and Google’s Android OS simultaneously.
In an article published on Time on December 16, Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies said,
“A PC Plus machine will run Windows 8.1 but will also run Android apps as well. They are doing this through software emulation. I’m not sure what kind of performance you can expect, but this is their way to try and bring more touch-based apps to the Windows ecosystem.”
Bajarin also goes on to say that Intel is backing the entire initiative.
As you may be aware, there already exists a way to run Android applications on the Windows platform. BlueStacks, launched in March 2012, provides Windows users the option of running the Android OS and its applications through virtualization, called as “LayerCake” by BlueStacks. The popularity of the application can be gauged by the fact that a Mac version was soon launched in June 2012 followed by a Microsoft Surface Pro version in March 2013.
Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy speculated the various ways OEMs could bring their plan to fruition. “There are three [possible] implementations, including dual-boot, which would be a fast-switch mode where you press a button and within seconds you’re in Android“. The other two methods could be running Android in a virtual machine within Windows through virtualization like VMware’s Fusion or through software emulation of Android within Windows.
One of the reasons why OEMs are contemplating such a move is the fact that Microsoft’s Metro app store has a relatively low number of apps compared to iOS and Android. This ultimately leads to difficulties for OEMs to sell touch-enabled laptops, as consumers don’t see any value in buying a platform that doesn’t have an equivalent app store to iOS and Android and which also sells at a higher price.
Over the last 2 years, consumers have shown a greater interest and are much more willing to spend their hard-earned dollars to buy smartphones and tablets. This has hurt the bottom-line of PC manufacturers whose revenues are shrinking slowly and surely. One can say that this is a really difficult time for OEMs and the current move may well reek of desperation.
“OEMs are throwing some real deep passes as they see double-digit declines in the PC market. This is one of the long balls that they’re throwing, hoping something sticks,” observed Moorhead.
“Strategically, [PC Plus] could get millions of consumers more comfortable with Android on PCs,” said Moorhead. “The gamble is coincident with OEMs’ interest in alternative operating systems. Just imagine for a second what happens when Android gets an improved large-screen experience.”
Dell, HP and Lenovo have already launched their own versions of Chromebook, which runs on Google’s Chrome OS in a bid to differentiate and expand their product lineup. The new “PC Plus” initiative is another attempt to try something new and get back the attention of consumers.
Financially speaking, even if a Windows 8.1 PC comes with a way to run Android apps or dual-boot the Android OS, Microsoft will still be paid for a Windows license and would not see a loss of revenue. But the real worry for Microsoft here is not just about the money. Developers would see little reason to dedicate efforts and money to create native Metro apps for Windows if the same computer can run an Android app with ease.
Moorehead notes, “This should scare the heck out of Microsoft. They should be very, very afraid because if goes widespread, it demotivates developers to create native Windows apps.“
Only time will tell how successful the “PC Plus” initiative will be and whether Microsoft will play some own tactics to curb the possible success of such a venture. For the moment, Microsoft has declined to comment on this story.