The Rise of Android on the Desktop
As new products have become more popular with consumers, desktop PC sales have plummeted—a 14 percent decrease from the previous year. This decrease is a reflection of the fact that phones and tablets have become the preferred method for surfing the Internet, exchanging emails, and accessing multimedia. This change has greatly reduced the influence of Microsoft and its Windows operating system. Although Microsoft still dominates the desktop and laptop market, it is merely on the fringe when it comes to the mobile market.
Consumers are now open to a computing paradigm outside the Windows structure. In fact, Google Docs’s popularity has allowed users to move away from the Microsoft’s Office suite, a primary driver of PC sales in the past. It is obvious that Microsoft recognizes the industry’s direction with its release of Windows 8. The OS redesign was an attempt to unify the user experience across PCs, phones, and tablets. However, Microsoft was late to the party and has been unable to penetrate the mobile markets; consumers who still want traditional PCs have rejected the redesign.
This massive shift in consumer behavior has opened the door for hardware manufactures to explore other OS options beyond the burdensome fees that come with shipping Windows. Apple still does not license its OS to other hardware manufacturers, so that leaves Android as the OS that is the biggest threat to Microsoft. It does not hurt that Android is license free. Several companies have jumped on this opportunity and developed Android-running PCs: Viewsonic Smart Display, Dell’s Thumb Drive PC, and Intel’s Android-powered Laptops. Most recently Acer released a new all-in-one PC running Android.
Acer’s price point is right around $400, which is far below the price of its comparable Windows 8 all-in-one PC that sells for nearly $1000. The difference is the free OS and reduced hardware requirements needed to run Android.
These Android desktops do not mean Bill Gates needs to look for a night job, but they are an early warning shot across the bow. Consumers are comfortable interfacing with Android, and the price difference opens the market to early adopters. Ironically, it is Microsoft’s strategy of a consistent look and feel over multiple devices that increases the likelihood for adoption, but it most likely will be Google’s OS that makes adoption possible.
It’s worth mentioning that Google currently has an OS— Chrome OS—dedicated to low-price laptops. It is expected that Chrome OS and Android will eventually merge into a single offering. The current difference reflects the immaturity of the market. Unfortunately for Microsoft the market has forever changed. No longer are new Windows releases a reason to buy a new computer. Gone are the days of massive launch parties and camping out for the latest release. In the near future, OS updates will be more like virus protection software updates—automatic and free. In the end, it will have been Microsoft’s own vision that was its undoing.