ATIV Q dual OS tablet could be 'brilliant' or trouble for IT shops

High-res 13.3-in. tablet converts to laptop and runs Android and Windows 8

Samsung's upcoming 13.3-in. ATIV Q convertible tablet runs both Windows 8 and Android and unfolds to function as a laptop. Despite such versatility, some analysts believe it might pose a support dilemma for IT shops and confuse average users.

That is, of course, if the device -- first announced Thursday in London -- eventually goes on sale in the U.S. and is priced reasonably enough to gain some sales traction. Dual-boot devices, like the Lenovo IdeaPad U1, announced in early 2010, have never sold well "largely because the transition [from OS to OS] was ugly," noted Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group.

ATIV Q convertible tablet
ATIV Q convertible tablet from Samsung.

Lenovo no longer offers the IdeaPad U1, which ran both Android and Windows 7, although the company announced a 10.1-in. tablet on Friday called the Miix that comes with an optional detachable case with built-in keyboard. The Miix runs Windows 8 only and will sell for about $500, according to a statement, although a Lenovo online sales rep told Computerworld on Friday that there are reports that it may also come with a dual OS.

A Lenovo spokesman on Sunday said that the Miix supports Windows 8 and is not dual-OS. He did not comment on why the U1 is no longer available.

As for the ATIV Q, some users will like the tablet's toggling capability, which switches it instantly from enterprise-valued Windows apps to a multitude of Android apps. But users may want those Android Jelly Bean apps, including games like Angry Birds, for personal use.

Enderle and other analysts said IT shops are still worried about Android security, even with Samsung's Knox security approach, announced in February.

"Enterprises are really nervous about Android because it has become such a huge malware problem," Enderle said. But that could change "if you can assure that the Android side of the ATIV Q is disabled while inside of the company's firewall."

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moore Insights & Strategy, disagreed. "I could see a place for the ATIV Q in enterprises that have adopted Samsung's Knox initiative," he said. "Enterprises could essentially double their ROI by taking what [apps] they did on phones and moving that over to tablets." Knox is new and its effectiveness is still unknown, he noted.

G.P. Gownder, an analyst at Forrester Research, said for IT shops to manage both operating systems in the ATIV Q "could be quite a challenge ... Android faces security challenges and IT people don't like that. Windows is a known quantity."

Still, Gownder said that for companies that want to offer bring-your-own-device (BYOD) flexibility to workers, the ATIV Q "could work and could make sense."

Gownder said it's possible that Samsung will focus sales of the ATIV Q primarily on the Asian market, where Android tablets are more popular with workers than in the U.S. "Most people in the U.S. won't be familiar with a concept like this dual OS," he said. "IT departments will be skeptical based on security challenges and it will be confusing to consumers. So far there's not been a market for this dual OS."

Still, Gownder said Samsung deserves credit for experimenting with a dual-OS device. "Samsung has deep pockets and sells in a lot of markets and making many diverse products as they do seems to work for them," he said. "I don't fault them for experimentation."

One analyst who thinks the ATIV Q experiment could pay off in the U.S. is Jack Gold, of J. Gold Associates.

If priced right, Gold said the ATIV Q "is a pretty good idea." He said many enterprises still want Windows capability to run their internal apps while users want access to thousands of Android apps to choose from. The ATIV Q "is really serving the best of both worlds."

Samsung will face a challenge convincing Windows users to try the dual-OS approach with Android, Gold said. "Still, it's a security blanket knowing you can go back to Windows if you don't like the Android experience," he said.

Gold said many factors are still unknown, including the battery life of the ATIV Q and its durability and user acceptance. "But Samsung did take a pretty aggressive and interesting position with this device," he said. "They'll look brilliant if the strategy is successful."

Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Gartner, said the ATIV Q could end up costing more than buying two cheap laptops, one running Android and the other running Windows. Potentially, the two could be purchased for $500.

Gold also likes the ATIV Q because it runs full Windows 8, is upgradeable to 8.1, and uses an Intel Core i5 processor, which he prefers over the ARM processors used in Windows RT tablets. He said Microsoft should have been the first to put both Android and Windows 8 together in an Intel-based Surface tablet.

The ATIV Q is "what the Surface tablet could have been if Microsoft had done the right thing, instead of putting out the ARM-based Surface RT tablet," Gold said.

Analysts said that aside from the convertible capabilities and dual OS, some customers will want the ATIV Q because of its super-high resolution of 3200 x 1800 pixels, the highest of any device with a 13.3-in. screen. The computer weighs 2.8 pounds and has a 128GB solid state drive, with the ability to add an SD card.

This article, ATIV Q's dual OS tablet could be 'brilliant' or trouble for IT shops, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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