Reports: Say goodbye to Android + Windows dual OS devices

At the start of 2014, it looked like “dual OS” tablets running both Android and Windows software could be the next big thing. Chip makers Intel and AMD were pushing the dual OS approach, and Asus unveiled one of the first dual OS devices, a quad-mode machine called the Transformer Book Duet that could function as a Windows or Android tablet… or a Windows or Android laptop.

Now it looks like folks who want a dual OS device might have to build one themselves. A number of reports have surfaced in the past month suggesting that neither Google nor Microsoft want PC makers to offer dual OS products… and both software makers could be exerting pressure to keep it from happening.

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The appeal of a dual OS device is the ability to run full-blown Windows apps like Microsoft Office while accessing the million or so touch-friendly apps and games available from the Google Play Store.

But not every Android phone or tablet includes the Google Play Store. While Google releases the source code for the Android operating system, allowing anyone to install the OS on phones, tablets, notebooks, set top boxes, or just about anything else, some of the most important parts of the Android experience are closed-source. That includes the Play Store, Google Maps, YouTube, and Gmail apps. Device makers need approval from Google to include those apps and services.

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Meanwhile Microsoft can influence a PC maker’s hardware decision by offering incentives such as lower Windows licensing fees for hardware that meets certain qualifications. So if Microsoft doesn’t want dual OS devices on the market, it can make it prohibitively expensive for device makers to offer them… while Google can make dual OS devices less useful by refusing to certify products so they can use Google Mobile Services.

Reports that the software makers were pressuring PC makers to drop dual OS hardware plans started making the rounds a few weeks ago.

Now the Wall Street Journal is reporting that not only are devices that had been under development such as the Asus Transformer Book Duet threatened… according to a leaked memo, Asus is even planning to discontinue existing dual OS devices like the all-in-one Transformer P1801 desktop computer.

Asus Transformer AiO

The P1801 is an 18.4 inch desktop with a removable display that can act as a standalone touchscreen tablet. While the desktop has an Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor and runs Windows software, there’s an NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor and Android software in the tablet portion.

You could make the case that the tablet is a standalone device that pretty much just works like a monitor for the desktop PC… but since they’re sold as one device apparently this is exactly the type of dual OS machine that we won’t see much more of in the future.

Does this mean that dual-booting hardware is dead and gone forever? Not necessarily. A handful of companies are reportedly planning to launch smartphones that dual-boot Android and Windows Phone software… and that’s reportedly something Microsoft is cool with (presumably because Microsoft has such a small market share in the phone space that this would probably help increase adoption rather than hurt it).

Ubuntu Linux developer Canonical is also working on software that lets you dual-boot Ubuntu and Android on the same smartphone or tablet. And plenty of folks have been dual-booting Windows and Ubuntu or other Linux distributions on PCs for decades… they just typically have to install the second operating system themselves.

Meanwhile in cases where Google is the holdout, companies may have an alternative. Russian internet company Yandex offers its own alternative to Google Mobile services called Yandex.Kit.

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It includes an app store, maps app, and much more. While the Yandex.Store has just a fraction of the apps available in the Google Play Store, it’s an end-to-end solution that could give Google a bit of competition even on devices running Google’s own Android software.

For now if you want to get your hands on a dual OS desktop like the Asus Transformer P1801 all-in-one, you’d best act fast. It’s available from B&H for $1130. And if you want to get your hands on the Asus Transformer Book Duet… tough.

  • Neje

    On notebooks and larger devices, I never really saw the usefulness of this. It could be because all the Android apps I use are just gimped versions of full desktop apps. If I wanted to run gimped apps on my Windows notebook/desktop, I have the crappy Modern UI for that.

    For 8″ and smaller tablets, I can see this being useful since without an accurate mouse pointer and keyboard, it’ll be more difficult to run desktop apps for long periods. Although, I’d personally still opt to use a desktop app as much as I can. Switching between Android and Windows may not be that quick or use too much resources on these Bay Trail devices with possibly slow eMMC and 2-4 GB of RAM.

    • bbkm

      I really like the efficiency of the presentation of information in the Android Bloomberg and Barchart apps. I can’t imagine it is so hard to transition them to Win8, and yet…

      I also find the experience of the Android TDAmeritrade trading app very enjoyable, and the equivalent to this might be the web-based/flash version for desktop/Windows products, but its so resource heavy and clunky by comparison. But when I really want information, and need to delve deep and analyze charts and stuff, there is no comparison to the Windows based full version of TDAmeritrade’s desktop trading platform. In my efforts to transition my experience to Linux, I’m too retarded or time-restricted to figure out how to install that platform on Linux, and let me tell you, this is a key reason why I haven’t gone to Linux….

      I’m a huge fan of the 8″ form factor as for most things including its portability it’s ideal and as long as I can output to KVM – which are in all the locations I do work – I’m happy. So I could get by very well with 8″…. and the apps I use work well on that size.

      • Neje

        So the TDAmeritrade Android app is a gimped version of the desktop one. Good to know.

      • bbkm

        Errr, no. As I said, the Android TDAmeritrade app is awesome, it’s efficient and fast at presenting data, and it’s ‘equivalent’ on Windows Desktops are web-based flash/java products which aren’t nearly as good. But it isn’t nearly as powerful as the Windows based Desktop Trading Platform ThinkorSwim, in which you may run multiple charts on multiple timeframes with multiple analyses in each chart… which the Android app simply can’t do.

      • Neje

        “isn’t nearly as powerful as the Windows based Desktop Trading Platform ThinkorSwim, in which you may run multiple charts on multiple timeframes with multiple analyses in each chart… which the Android app simply can’t do.”

        Sounds to me the Android app is gimped compared to a desktop app.

      • bbkm

        Sometimes I don’t need to boot up the full desktop trading platform. Or I may simply not be near a KVM. Logging into the web based flash/java products is painful, as is the website. Given the choice, I use either the Android app or the Desktop platform on any given day. I usually lug an Android tab along with my Win notebook wherever I go, and use it as a second screen. As well as my Blackberry, and my Playbook… yes my bag is big and heavy. So depending on my needs I’ll boot up whatever product makes the most sense.

        I don’t need the full desktop platform if I’m just monitoring positions or products (equities/futures/currencies) and looking for an entry/exit. The Android app gives me the data quickly (unrealized profit/loss, current market prices etc) and if I know say I’m looking for an entry into a product at a particular price, I’m good. But, when I’m doing chart analyses, looking at options chains, etc, yes I do need the desktop platform.

        This doesn’t make the Android app ‘gimped': it does what it’s designed to do, and it does it well. My point is that both products are great, and an equivalent for either does not exist on the opposing platforms. So in my case, dual boot makes a lot of sense. If there were a desktop platform equivalent for Android – which I honestly can’t fathom because the platform just isn’t designed for such a thing, or if there were a Win8 equivalent for the Android app – which I don’t know why there isn’t save for the relative unpopularity of small screen Win8 products – then dual boot may make less sense: at least in this particular scenario.

      • Neje

        Would you run that Android app on a notebook or desktop PC where you can use the more full featured ThinkorSwim app instead?

        I can see you using that Android app on an 8″ tablet but as you’ve said when docked, you’d likely use ThinkorSwim because it’s not gimped.

    • CyberGusa

      Dual booting Android did make more sense with Windows 7… since traditional Windows did not support the advance power modes and consumption management to allow for the kind of battery life expected from mobile devices and the slow boot up times of Windows made the much faster Android boot times more idea for things like just quickly checking your email and then closing the system again… which would have been much less efficient with full Windows…

      But Windows 8 can boot nearly as quick now, fully supports advance mobile features like Connected Standby that allows for things like instant on usage and advance power sipping states that still allow the system to do limited things like auto update, etc.

      So it’s less advantageous now and the main reason to still want it is like you said for smaller devices where mobile apps can have a usage advantage over desktop apps that are harder to use on small screens…

      Implementation method can effect the experience, though… The most optimal solution right now is the use of a custom firmware that allows running both OS at the same time, one OS is just suspended and put into a hibernation state while the other OS is running… with a switch time of under 4 seconds as has been demonstrated on test systems…

      While the more traditional dual boot solution can take much longer to switch and you’d have to actually reboot each time, but both W8 and Android can boot up pretty fast and Bay Trail devices should be able to keep that from becoming too annoying unless you have to switch back and forth regularly…

      Then there’s the alternative option of running Android in emulation but even a Core i-Processor can be laggy and buggy with Bluestack and other such emulation solutions…

      Though, AMD at least is in partnership with Bluestack and will apparently work to optimize it to work with their systems better but it’s not a solution that’s optimal for mobile devices…

      While the eMMC’s are starting to improve… Bay Trail supports the v4.5 eMMC specification and as long as the OEM uses a v4.5 spec eMMC chip then the performance is at least faster than a HDD and can be nearly as fast as a SATA II SSD, but it’s hard to tell which model is given the better chip and it can vary between capacity versions as well…

      Like I’ve seen a review of the Thinkpad Tablet 8″ with 32GB and it barely had a sequential read speed of just over 99 MB/s on CrystalDiskMark but a higher capacity version, recently shown by Chippy of UMPC Portal, had a score of over 160 MB/s to give some idea of how much it could vary…

      While, the older eMMC spec chips provide even slower performance and those older ones are the main cause of the eMMC reputation for being slow but like SSDs before them, the industry is steadily improving them over time and at least the highest end ones are getting pretty good now…

      Though, those willing to wait till the end of the year can look forward to the next Cherry Trail update that’ll replace Bay Trail and offer a big GPU performance update (the GPU will be Gen8 and increase EU count from 4 to 16)… should see 4GB RAM capacities start to become the new norm and they’ll be pushing the even faster v5 eMMC specification support (they’ll basically double the bandwidth support from v4.5 from 200 to 400 MB/s) for drives that’ll rival the SATA II performance range…

      While the next Windows 8.1 update is suppose to help lower system requirements for Window systems from 2GB RAM and 32GB of storage to just 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage… So it looks like it’ll be a good idea to wait a bit as this should all be out before the end of this year…

  • bbkm

    Msft likely wants devs and consumers to transition to Windows8 versions of Android/iOS products and doesn’t feel dual boot products will promote said transition…. as for Google… perhaps it feels threatened by the desktop class ‘apps’ and experiences (Office, printing, general productivity) of Windows and fears decreasing migration to its platform.

    At the end of day: can’t fight change. They can try and block or stall it but the enlightened would embrace and monetize.

    My money says some small manufacturer not beholden to Microsoft/Google will continue to make the dual platform products, it will have niche appeal, and be expensive. But Micro-Oogle won’t mind because it will be niche. Also: I wonder if there is opportunity in here for Canonical with its desktop class experience and dual boot platform with Android….

  • Arrdee

    I suspect this is about Google and hardware manufacturers (i.e. Intel) than about Microsoft. Google is probably worried about desktop Android cannibalizing Chrome’s future, and thus has put forth ZERO effort to create a Desktop profile alongside Phone and MID (and recently “wearable”) OS build profiles. Intel was probably worried about PC sales and wanted to pressure Microsoft to knock more rough corners off the Windows 8 fiasco and drop OEM license prices.
    Microsoft is just a follower here.
    Sad though. I think Google has blown it. Computer users will be all the poorer for this trend if it actually materializes and sends us back to the tired MS/Apple desktop OS duopoly.

  • George

    All is not lost. I’m pretty sure some intrepid Android-on-a-(USB)-stick
    people will come out with something that is Google approved.
    Or an Android-on-a-(micro)-SDHC-card, although it may not get
    Google’s imprimatur.

    • buzz86us

      I wish the people at Cyanogen would do that…

  • Rabidmob

    To me the allure is android for the mobile apps and windows for the old games I have and perhaps some AAA title that may come out.

    Otherwise I can’t say I care for platform overly much, I spend most of my time in a browser.

  • tk76

    Very disappointing move on microsoft’s part. I was planning on getting an 8″ Baytrail tablet once they supported dual OS and 64 bits/4GB. An 8″ tablet without either android or iOS is somewhat crippled since their are so many great (free) apps that will never make it to Win8. But now it seems like Microsoft has lost my business, as the advantage of running a few legacy apps is not worth the tradeoff. And I am the type of customer that Microsoft needs to keep if they want to stay in the game.

  • buzz86us

    ironically i am planning on getting a Surface Pro to replace my laptop and my HP Touchpad for mobile use since it runs Android x86 pretty well… I wanted an Asus Vivotab 8 but I an ultimately deciding to get the Surface Pro since that seems to be more open.

  • Cal Rankin

    I guess I will just have to build one myself. Thank goodness for the Android x86 project.

  • PCguy

    I dont see the big deal… I mean most Windows users have Android and iOS devices its not like the company is selling a device with two rival systems on it… like OS x and Windows, or WinRT and Android… they should be happy that OEMs want to do it right instead of someone with little skill trying to do a hack and come away with a less than optimal experience.. Also there are many different stores one can install if Google play is not available Kindle store being the easiest and has most of the better apps… I use BlueStacks on my Windows Tablet and it runs the few android apps I want on there just fine anyway.. so why bitch? Be happy that someone wants BOTH of you instead of NeITHER…

    • tk76

      What proportion of Android apps are available for free on Bluestacks?

      • Charles222

        Pretty much all of them-it just creates a virtual machine that the play store sees as another Android device.