Can Android Dominate PCs?

An HP device running Android.

Like a super-aggressive Pac-Man, Google Android has swallowed an ever-increasing percentage of the mobile device market over the past several quarters, challenging Apple’s iOS and outright dominating Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10.

Now the hungry operating system has focused its sights on the PC market.

Hewlett-Packard, Asus, and Lenovo already offer laptops and “detachables” loaded with Android, and that’s likely just the beginning of the relationship between PC manufacturers and Google’s mobile operating system. “Android is also not Mac OS X, it will not simply confine itself to the high end of the desktop computer market,” Jim Lynch wrote in a Jan. 29 column for IT World. “It will aggressively challenge Microsoft in every sphere of the desktop market, and Microsoft will not be able to compete with Android on price in any way whatsoever.”

Lynch believes that spells doom for Windows, which handily dominated the PC market for the past several years.

Google already has a PC operating system, of course, in the form of Chrome OS, which runs on Chromebooks (also produced by an increasing number of device manufacturers). But loading Android onto laptops and desktops offers a plethora of advantages for OEMs: app compatibility across multiple devices (PCs, tablets, and smartphones), the ability to customize the Android interface into pretty much any form desired (look at what Amazon did with Kindle, using Android as a base), and zero licensing costs. By installing Android alongside Windows on the same PCs, manufacturers can also get consumers used to the idea of an alternate operating system—eroding Microsoft’s mindshare in the process.

Does that mean Android will outright kill Windows, as Lynch suggests in his column? That’s unlikely, if only because Windows maintains a 90.73 percent share of the desktop OS market (according to the most recent data from Net Applications); it takes a long time to radically diminish that sort of presence. And although customers and businesses reacted tepidly to Windows 8, Microsoft still has the relationships and money to aggressively promote Windows for many years into the future.

The more likely scenario is that Mac OS X, Chrome OS, Android, various Linux distributions, and other operating systems chip away at Microsoft’s once-commanding market-share, transforming Windows from a giant to merely a strong competitor. The added irony is that, in a bid to maintain that presence, Microsoft is attempting to retool Windows into an operating system that’s interoperable across a broad range of devices; but by migrating to PCs, Android might beat Microsoft to that particular punch.


Image: Hewlett-Packard