Intel confirmed that it will provide processors to personal computer and tablet makers that support both Windows 8.1 and Android, the two operating systems from fierce rivals Microsoft and Google.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich mentioned the initiative, which he named "Dual OS" on Monday during an hourlong keynote presentation at the International CES trade show, which runs through Friday in Las Vegas.
"Our [OEM] customers wanted more [than Windows]," Krzanich said. "We wanted devices that can do both [Windows and Android]. There are times when you want Windows, times when you want Android. We wanted more choice: Windows for some usage, Android for others."
Later, Krzanich touted the project as, "The world's first dual OS system with both Windows and Android," and claimed, "You don't have to make a choice going forward. You can have both."
He didn't discuss technical details of the two-OS implementation, but some OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) have already shown devices at the massive trade show. Asian OEM Asus, for instance, has introduced its Transformer Book Duet TD300, a $599 convertible notebook-tablet powered by an Intel Core i7 -- one of the chips from the Haswell architectural line -- and switches between Windows 8.1 and Android within seconds after an on-screen button is touched, just as Krzanich demonstrated. The Duet is to ship in March.
Several "white box" Chinese vendors, which already crank out cut-rate Android tablets, touted upcoming Android-plus-Windows tablets at CES, some of which can be booted into either OS, much as Apple's Boot Camp lets users launch Windows or OS X, others that switch between the two on the fly.
Krzanich's confirmation of Dual OS came several weeks after analysts predicted the initiative would be unveiled at CES, and said the move by OEMs and Intel represented a rebellion against Windows, which has struggled to win over users since its 2012 launch.
Much of the commentary on Dual OS -- before and after Krzanich's keynote -- was dismissive of the concept, and the analysts who earlier revealed the project were cautious about its chances, saying that OEMs had both obstacles to surmount and must make the right choices to convince consumers and businesses that they needed a device able to run both operating systems.
"There are a lot of compatibility issues," said Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies in an interview. "[The Android apps] will be sandboxed to some degree, but how many will actually work is the question."
"It will all depend on how OEMs implement this," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, who added that it appeared the computer makers will have several choices of how their devices manage the change from one OS, say Windows 8.1, to the other, and back.
"Unless it's done with a full-screen app -- you touch an Android app tile in Windows 8.1, and the app shows in full-screen -- I think it will be confusing to consumers," Moorhead said. "This will fly or flop based on how well the OEMs can hid the background machinery of Android from users."
Bajarin agreed, saying that the success or failure of Dual OS would be "dependent on the execution at the OEM level."
The two were split on how Intel supported the two operating systems and how OEMs handled Android and Windows on a single device. Bajarin was certain that Dual OS was based on emulation while Moorhead was adamant it was not, that instead it was virtualization-based.
But they agreed on the reasons why OEMs and Intel thought Dual OS was a bright idea.
"This gets to their fundamental problem with Windows 8, that it doesn't have enough apps," said Moorhead.
"This was driven by the OEMs, who believe there are still scenarios where Windows makes sense but that this will bring more apps to the Windows platform," echoed Bajarin. "The huge issue is that the Windows ecosystem is not developed, and OEMs are desperate to get more apps onto their devices."
Microsoft's Windows Store, the only outlet for "Modern," formerly known as "Metro," apps that run in the tile-based, touch-enabled user interface of the same name, has more than 140,000 apps according to MetroStore Scanner, but critics have continued to pan both the number and overall quality as insufficient.
"That pales in comparison to Android or iOS," Bajarin said. Apple's App Store, the distribution channel for iPhone and iPad apps, boasts more than 1 million, for example.
Neither Microsoft nor Google has publicly commented on Dual OS and the move by staunch partner Intel.
But Bajarin encouraged Microsoft to warm to the idea. "The Windows ecosystem on touch-based devices is far short of what's available on iOS," Bajarin said. "I think they have to embrace Android to save Windows."
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.