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Microsoft to face computer makers' rebellion at CES

Windows 8.1 PCs that also run Android should 'scare the heck' out of Microsoft, says analyst

December 23, 2013 06:33 AM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft will face a rebellion of long-time partners at next month's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) when OEMs introduce Windows personal computers also able to run Android mobile apps.

According to two analysts, multiple OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) will roll out what one called "PC Plus" at CES, the massive Las Vegas trade show slated for early January.

Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies mentioned PC Plus in passing in a Dec. 16 piece he authored for Time. "A PC Plus machine will run Windows 8.1 but will also run Android apps as well," Bajarin wrote, adding that the initiative would be backed by chip maker Intel. "They are doing this through software emulation. I'm not sure what kind of performance you can expect, but this is their way to try and bring more touch-based apps to the Windows ecosystem."

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, confirmed the project. "This is going to make buzz at CES," said Moorhead in an interview. "OEMs will be trumpeting this ... it's going to be a very hot topic [at the trade show]."

Concept isn't new

The concept of Android apps running on Windows isn't new.

BlueStacks, which both Bajarin and Moorhead mentioned, launched its App Player software for Windows in March 2012, added a Mac version in June of that year, and rolled out a Surface Pro-specific version in March 2013. The App Player, offered both as a free download from BlueStacks' website and through agreements with several OEMs bundled with some Windows-powered PCs and tablets, relies on virtualization -- dubbed "LayerCake" by BlueStacks -- to run Android apps on other OSes.

In July 2013, Taiwan OEM Asus introduced the Transformer Book Trio, a convertible device that, as a laptop, could execute both Android apps and Windows 8 programs, including the latter's "Modern," nee "Metro" apps. More recently, reports circulated that Samsung is developing a dual-boot tablet that could launch into either Android or Windows RT 8.1, Microsoft's touch-centric operating system.

The PC Plus project, however, is aimed at personal computers, most likely traditional "clamshell" notebooks, not tablets. And it doesn't rely on BlueStacks' technology, even though Intel invested in the Palo Alto, Calif. company in March. "This is very different from BlueStacks," Moorhead said.

While Bajarin vouched for some kind of emulation that would make Android apps possible on Windows 8.1, Moorhead posited several technologies OEMs could deploy.

"There are three [possible] implementations, including dual-boot, which would be a fast-switch mode where you press a button and within seconds you're in Android," Moorhead said. Others would include software emulation of Android within Windows, and some type of virtualization-based solution that would run an instance of Android in a virtual machine, just as OS X users can run Windows on their Macs through VMware's Fusion or Parallels' Desktop for Mac.

Ideally, the Android apps would run in full-screen mode after the user clicked on its tile within Windows 8.1.



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