Why Android PCs are doomed to fail

There's an all-out push to bring Android to the desktop and beyond, with new PCs such as the Lenovo N308 and hybrid Windows-Android machines. But Android PCs will never be able to compete against Windows. Here's why they're doomed to fail.

The Lenovo N308 certainly sounds good on paper: A machine with a 19.5-inch touchscreen running Android 4.2 Jellybean, and with a starting price of $450. It comes with a base of 2GB of memory, although you can buy models with more. Hard disk sizes are up to 500 GB. It's powered by an NVIDIA Tegra quad-core processor.

So what's not to like about it and any other Android desktop? Plenty. Start off with the operating system itself. I'm a big fan of Android, have multiple Android devices, and have written many books about Android smartphones and tablets. So I'm certainly not an Android hater. But having used it for so long and on so many different devices, I have a clear-eyed view of it. And one of its biggest problems is its complexity. It's great for tinkerers and those who like infinite customization. But it can be confusing to use.

Windows has long been criticized for being too difficult to use, but in recent iterations, it's gotten simpler and more streamlined. Even the main Start-screen interface of the much-maligned Windows 8 is easier to use than Android. So ironically, one reason that Android PCs won't compete seriously against Windows PCs is that Windows PCs are easier to use.

Another problem with Android PCs is that they are necessarily touchscreen-based, because Android and all its apps are touchscreen-based. Consumers so far have stayed away from touchscreen desktops, and with good reason -- they're awkward to use. An Android PC will require that just about all interactions occur via the touchscreen rather than a keyboard and mouse. And for desktops, that's a big drawback.

Finally, there's the issue of apps. Yes, Android has countless apps, far more than Windows does. But the apps are mainly aimed at mobility and at entertainment and games, not productivity. It's true that there are some good productivity apps, such as for Office suites. But they're simply not as good as Microsoft Office. Google and its free Google Docs hasn't managed to convince people to give up Office. Android PCs aren't likely to do that, either. When people think productivity, they think Office.

Is there a place for Android PCs? Yes, in niches, mainly for entertainment. Lenovo is pitching the N308 primarily as an entertainment machine, and it might find life there. But when it comes to mass-market appeal, Android PCs won't cut it.

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