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OEMs, Intel making big mistake with two-headed, dual-OS devices

'I don't see any benefit to consumers,' says analyst of systems that run Android and Windows

January 6, 2014 03:20 PM ET

Computerworld - OEMs and Intel risk damaging both the Android and Windows ecosystems if they go through with plans to sell devices able to run software from both worlds, an analyst argued today.

At a news conference slated for Monday, Intel and several computer makers -- dubbed OEMs for "original equipment manufacturers" -- are expected to unveil a new initiative that promotes dual OS devices, including tablets and personal computers, that have both Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows 8.1 pre-installed.

Two weeks ago, Computerworld cited analysts who said that the initiative would be rolled out at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week. One of those analysts, Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy, said, "This should scare the heck out of Microsoft," as he bet that the move would "be a very hot topic" at the massive Las Vegas trade show.

Wes Miller of Directions on Microsoft, an independent research firm that focuses exclusively on the Redmond, Wash. technology giant, didn't disagree that the effort would be newsworthy. But he did call it a major mistake for all concerned.

"This will make both Android and Windows seem incomplete," said Miller in a Monday interview. "It will muddle the message for users."

In a post to his personal blog on Sunday, Miller was more expansive.

"The OEMs and Intel have to be going into this strategy without any concern for consumers," Miller wrote. "It's just about moving devices, and trying to ensure an ecosystem is there when they can't, or don't want to, bet on one platform exclusively. The end result is a device that instead of doing task A well, or task B well, does a really middling job with both, and results in a device that the user regrets buying, or worse, regrets being given."

Miller saw Android-Windows devices, whether tablets or more traditional personal computers, as inherently flawed, as he said all such two-OSes-in-one-machine attempts have been in the past, citing problems ranging from disparate user interfaces (UIs) to awkward file sharing.

"Android has struggled to have a cohesive design paradigm, and now [OEMs] are suggesting to meld that with a version of Windows that people love to take strikes against because of its two modes?" Miller asked.

The two modes Miller mentioned are those within Windows 8 and its free upgrade, Windows 8.1: The OS relies on both a traditional, "classic" desktop UI operated by keyboard and mouse, and the radical "Modern," nee "Metro," UI that features tiles and focuses on touch input.

Much of the criticism aimed at Windows 8, as Miller noted, has centered on the two interfaces or modes, and the perception that Windows 8 is a Frankenstein built from two vastly different UIs bolted together.

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