Windows plus Android: A solution to a non-problem?

The biggest pre-CES rumor says Asus and others will combine Android and Windows on a device, but the idea has inspired more head scratching than enthusiasm

PC sales are slumping, thanks in large part to the ascendancy of Android (and iOS) devices, so why not jump on both bandwagons and create a device that runs Android and Windows at the same time?

That seems to be the bright idea behind a number of devices set to be demoed at the Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas, with multiple PC manufacturers getting on board with the idea and using the label "PC Plus" to describe the resulting machines.

Too bad the idea doesn't seem to be generating more than perplexity and indifference -- particularly from Google and Microsoft.

The implementation of the core idea is still very much under wraps, and it may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. AndroidHeadlines.com reports that Asus's yet-to-be-released Transformer Book Duet TD300 appears to be one incarnation of the concept. Apparently Asus mistakenly leaked a video on YouTube -- and quickly took it down again -- that shows the TD300 switching between Windows and Android in the space of about eight seconds when the unit is docked. (My guess: It sounds like the switch involves hibernating Windows, then booting to Android from a separate disk or partition.)

The Verge did some homework on the concept and believes Intel is the one most directly responsible for the whole idea -- which makes sense, since Intel hardware can run both OSes. But it also appears that "neither Microsoft nor Google is on board," as the Verge puts it. Microsoft would rather have Windows users buying Windows Phone devices (and eventually the Threshold edition of Windows), and could kill any bulk-licensing incentives to the PC makers behind dual-boot devices.

Google could also elect to withdraw support for such devices. It might be possible to get around Google's restrictions by using a nonstandard build of Android -- such as CyanogenMod -- but any device maker that risked the combined ire of two of tech's biggest names would likely be on the losing end.

Some of this is only the newest incarnation of an idea that's been floating around in one form or another for quite some time and in multiple incarnations. To wit:

  • Samsung's Ativ Q tablet (released earlier in 2013), which ran both Windows 8 and Android Jelly Bean. Users toggled between both OSes by simply tapping a button.
  • The ViewSonic ViewPad 10Pro and ViewPad 10 (both released in 2011), which also allowed toggling between Windows 7 and Android without a reboot.
  • The Asus Transformer Book Trio (June 2013) offered, as the name implies, a triple play: a notebook PC, tablet PC, and Android tablet in a single package.
  • The BlueStacks software app lets users run Android directly on Windows (as well as iOS apps on Android). It's a slightly more elegant version of another approach used by enthusiasts: downloading a custom build of Android and running it on a PC in a VM.
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