Android simply doesn't make sense on the desktop

Android as the new Windows competitor is appealing -- if you don't think it through

Android simply doesn't make sense on the desktop
Credit: TechOne3

In a fairly listless Consumer Electronics Show this year, one announcement stood out: Jide's Remix Android version will be made available for all Intel-based PCs, not merely delivered through the $70 Remix plug-in device. 

But why would anyone want Android as their PC's OS? For no good reason I can think of.

In my annual geek gadget gift guide, I recommended the $70 Remix box as a way to get Android on your PC's screen for when a small screen was too constrained. Giving presentations and playing games were uses that came to mind. Basically, the Remix box made sense for use as an occasional adjunct to an Android tablet or smartphone.

But making an Android variant that is meant to run as your full-time desktop OS? That I can't buy.

There are very few apps in the Google Play Store that are not already available for Windows or OS X. Replacing Windows with Android is as dumb as replacing it with Chrome OS -- dumber, in fact, because Chrome OS doesn't purport to be a real PC OS but a lightweight, self-contained browser meant for highly managed, constrained environments like classrooms and kiosks.

When people suggest that users might replace Windows PCs -- ideas that became popular during the Windows Vista and Windows 8 debacles -- users and IT departments alike pushed back strongly that Macs didn't have the same range of applications, especially for specialty business uses, as Windows. Thus, moving to Mac outside of basic productivity and Web uses was unrealistic. If you think that's true (it is), it's true squared for Android. 

When it comes to apps you'd use on a PC, Windows dominates. OS X is a distant second. iOS is a more distant third -- which is why few people hook up their iPads to a keyboard and monitor to use as a PC. Android is an even more distant fourth. Then comes desktop Linux, trailed significantly by Chrome OS.

There's also much less security available for Android than for Windows, OS X, and iOS. How many corporations would accept it? Especially because Jide's Remix Android is an Android variant, adding a compatibility wrinkle that IT organizations rightfully avoid, particularly from niche providers in markets with unclear value.

What about peripherals? Android supports so very few, mainly USB storage, keyboards, and mice. Printing on Android is a messy, inconsistent affair using Google's CloudPrint service. And forget about scanners, much less specialty peripherals for home and business.

Proponents of Android as a PC OS suggest that the world is ripe for an alternative to Windows (they discount the Mac due to Apple's tight control over it), given the sad history of the OS since Windows XP. They believe that the large Android developer would give an Android PC OS an immediate advantage with users. 

It's true that Vista and Windows 8 were disasters. But Windows 7 was solid, and Windows 10, despite the cavalcade of update problems, is becoming solid too. It's certainly solid enough for people to avoid the high cost of migration, especially since the apps they rely on continue to work in all Windows versions. And the large number of apps in the Google Play Store is impressive only in mumbles, not in quality or capability. That developer community is unlikely to produce what PC users actually need.

I applaud Jide for its efforts to make Android compatible for the bigger screen, but only in the context of an adjunct to mobile Android and desktop Windows (or OS X). Android simply doesn't make sense.