When you think of Android you probably think of smartphones, or maybe tablets, watches, or TVs. But over the past few years we’ve seen a couple different companies attempt to turn Google’s mobile operating system into something you can comfortably run on a desktop.

Jide’s Remix OS was a high-profile attempt, but it’s pretty much dead. Phoenix OS is still around, but it’s primarily focused on the Chinese market.

Now an Indian startup is giving the idea another go with an Android-based operating system called PrimeOS. The first device to run the operating system is called the Primebook, and the folks at Notebook Italia got an early look at it at the Hong Kong Sourcing Fair this week.

Notebook Italia

Like other Android-for-laptop projects PrimeOS gives the operating system a taskbar, desktop, start menu-style app launcher, and support for multi-window mode, allowing you to run apps and games in resizable windows that you can position anywhere on the screen.

One nifty feature is a keymapping tool that helps you play touchscreen games using a keyboard. Say a racing game normally requires you to push on-screen buttons for steering, braking and acceleration and doesn’t support keyboard or joystick input. You can just move your mouse cursor over the buttons and assign a key to function as if you had tapped that part of the screen.

That comes in handy for a device like the Primebook, which doesn’t have a touchscreen.

There are also some custom apps for use in education, including a video lecture player that lets students take notes or create video bookmarks while watching, and a Prime eBook reader with PDF and EPUB support and text-to-speech functionality.

The latest version of PrimeOS is based on Android Nougat, but the developers are already working on updating it to Android Oreo. The operating system supports x86 and ARM-based processors.

As for the Primebook, it’s an entry-level laptop with a 13 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel TN display, a Rockchip RK3288 processor, 2GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a microSD card slot, WiFi Bluetooth a 10,000 mAh battery, HDMI, a 3.5mm audio jack, and two USB 3.0 ports.

But theoretically the operating system could be the bigger deal here, if the company can license its custom version of Android for use on third-party hardware.

On the one hand, I kind of get the desire to customize Android for use on laptop and desktop PCs, particularly in emerging markets like India. Not only is Android an open source operating system that’s available for free, but it’s also the first computing platform many people become familiar with. A growing number of people pick up their first smartphone before their first computer. Operating systems like PrimeOS make it possible to use the mobile apps they’re already familiar with in a more productivity-based environment.

On the other hand, now that Google is blurring the lines between Chrome OS and Android by allowing you to run Android apps on Chromebooks (and beginning to support GNU/Linux apps), I’m not sure how much demand there will be for third-party solutions like PrimeOS.

 



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14 replies on “Primebook is a low-cost laptop that runs Android-based PrimeOS”

  1. I don’t expect much. Android on desktops/laptops had a chance… once upon a time. Then Google turned Android over to the Chrome OS johnnies and that pretty much ended the matter.

  2. Is this primarily for the India market?

    Any plans to release Prime OS as a download separate from the Primebook?

    What are the current options for Android on a PC?

    1. The Android x86 project for 7.1 available at android-x86 dot org. It’s in vanilla and CM varieties. I have it installed on an ASRock Beebox NUC with a Celeron hooked to a TV. It makes a good TV box with the TV Launcher apk installed from Play store.

      Neverware. I have it installed on an Intel NUC with a Celeron and use it for a Chrome browser on my TV. The Neverware people have expectations that it will soon run Android Apps. I hope this comes to pass, if it does it will make a better TV box.

      1. But does Android x86 run ART apps or just dalvik apps? Like aren’t there apps that only run on ARM or does Android x86 support those through ARM emulation?

        1. All of the apps I run on my N6, Z2, N7, and N10 are available on Play for the x86. They install and perform well.

  3. I don’t think the main problem for Android-as-a-PC is the lack of hardware. The main problem is that it doesn’t know what problem it’s supposed to solve.
    – If you want it as a low-cost dedicated browser-machine, there are chromebooks for the same price with better user-experience
    – If you want it as a productivity solution, the scaled down apps, the lack of ability to run the same app in multiple instances (2-3 Excel windows?) makes it a pretty bad choice.
    – If you want it for gaming, most games for Android prefer the touchscreen-phone format, so the keyboard-mouse combo does not play well at all
    – If the reason that it’s cheap, similar or better specced Windows machines are all over the place for the same price

    So as much as it would be good to diversify the desktop space, I don’t see much chance for Android here, at least not until they find the problem they can offer a solution for.

  4. I just can’t see using Android on anything outside of smartphones. Not even tablets. This sounds like another thing some typical engineers thought up without doing any market research.

    1. I use Android on tablet every day along with most of the rest of the world.

      I suspect that the android on laptop idea stems from wanting a lightweight OS that doesn’t rely on a permanent network connection. There are big markets where these things matter.

  5. Rockchip’s RK3288 is rather old and still 32bits only. Why not the newer Rockchip RK3399? Market for Android laptops is simply too miniscule. No touchscreen for an Android device is going to be its death knell. This product will fade out of existence.

  6. I’m using an asus chromebook and I think a dedicated android os makes sense. I do get frustrated with basic things like printing from my chromebook…a bloody hassle. It is so easy, on the hand on my android based sony mobile…no glitches when printing to my wifi based hp printer. A Chromebook is basically a laptop running from a chrome browser. Android on the other hand is a completely different game…customization unlimited compared to Chrome OS, most apps on android can be run offline unlike Chrome os.

    Now my main question: Can I reformat my chromebook to solely run on android?

  7. I installed PrimeOS on a laptop with a Celeron N4000 CPU which is too slow to run the newer versions of Windows 10. It is fast and snappy, undemanding on the hardware, and I can use most of the same apps I use on my phone. It has extended the useful life of the laptop which otherwise would no longer be getting used.

    I would personally recommend PrimeOS if you have an older device that isn’t up to running Windows anymore but you don’t want to just throw it away. It helps if the device has a touchscreen, but not absolutely essential as you can use the mouse for most things.

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