Early rumors of an Android-based PC are true. At CES 2014, both Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard unveiled all-in-one PCs running on Google’s Android, not Microsoft’s Windows OS. HP’s going after the business crowd with its new Slate 21 Pro, while Lenovo appeals to the home entertainment sector with the N308.
Last April, news surfaced that Android-based laptops or netbooks will soon become a reality. It’d be another move for Google to participate in the consumer hardware market, adding to its OS-compatible line-up. Given the crowded market Android’s relying on price to compete, expected to sell the PCs for just $200. Taking on Apple and Microsoft, Google’s budget-friendly hardware/software bundle is showing signs of promise, posting stronger sales than the iPad for 2013, with consumer interest in Chromebooks increasing nearly 10 percent.
Here’s a quick rundown of what HP and Lenovo revealed at CES 2014:
HP Slate 21 Pro AiO : Features
On Sunday HP unveiled the Slate 21 Pro AiO, an all-in-one PC that runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. It is touted as an everyday business machine, but can also be useful for educational purposes.
It features a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, 2GB of DDR3/800 memory, 16GB of eMMC flash storage, and a 21.5-inch IPS optical touchscreen with a resolution of 1920×1080 with two touch points and three cameras. The Slate 21 Pro also comes with HDMI, three USB 2.0 ports, one USB 2.0 upstream port, an SD media card reader, a 720p webcam and mic, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, and 10/100 mb/s wired Ethernet.
The Slate 21 Pro is directed at consumers who have moved to the cloud, favoring online services such as Google Drive. It will come bundled with HP apps like the HP File Manager, as well as third-party apps Kingsoft Office, Evernote, Hulu Plus, Skype, and Box with 50GB of free cloud storage.
Price for the Slate 21 Pro starts at $399, which includes wired keyboard and mouse.
Lenovo N308 : Features
If HP’s Android all-in-one PC is directed for office use, the Lenovo N308 aims to be the ultimate Android home entertainment package.
The N308 features a 19.5 inch 1600×900 touchscreen desktop, runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, is powered by a Nvidia Tegra processor, comes with up to 500 GB of storage, a Webcam, keyboard, mouse and integrated battery with a three-hour lifespan.
Lenovo is pointing the N308 at consumers who are already using Android devices with small screens such as smartphones and tablets. It aims to deliver the same experience but on a much larger screen, which can also be portable with its built-in battery.
Prices for the Lenovo N308 start at $450.
Internal OS wars : Chrome vs Android
Though Microsoft’s Scroogled! campaign continues to berate Chromebooks, discounting them as real PCs, sales of Chromebooks in 2013 were higher than in 2012, and even managed to surpass sales of Apple Macs. That’s certainly something for Microsoft and Apple to think about, but Google’s also facing a bit of an identity crisis as overlap of Android and Chrome OS grows.
Does the arrival of Android for PCs mean death for Chromebooks? Not necessarily.
Chrome is more of a Google product. Though some OEMs have produced Chromebooks, its pretty much Google territory. With Android, manufacturers have more freedom in customizing the platform by adding more security features or putting more of their native applications. Another upside of having the Android platform on PCs is it will be easier to streamline products. Android smartphones and tablets will work seamlessly with Android PCs, making it easier to expand on other home appliances to run the same platform.
But it still begs the question of whether or not Google should dump one for the other. Will Android be better for PC than Chrome? Here’s three considerations as to how Chrome could take on Android.
3 considerations : Chrome takes on Android
The number one problem Android faces is fragmentation. Though Android and Chrome OS are both Linux-based and open sourced, Android gets forked more than Chrome. OEMs tweak Android according to their taste, and oftentimes you wouldn’t even know that a device is running Android unless you look for signs of its underlying OS. Android gets forked so much that even if an update is available for an Android-powered device, not all the devices can be updated.
Chrome, on the other hand, is browser-based. So when an update is released, all the Chromebooks, no matter what brand it is, gets updated. If Chrome takes Android’s seat, Google will have an update roll-out that’s more in line with Apple, while still allowing the flexibility of a multi-vendor device market.
But such uniformity has its downside. “Chrome doesn’t allow for a lot of customization and you don’t have the freedom to manage them,” Pavana Polineni, senior product marketing manger at HP, tells ZDNet. The perk for HP, Polineni adds, is that Google Play has more apps for personal and business use, and that Android 4.3 added several security features to make it more enterprise friendly.
It can be baffling to justify why Google needs two operating systems, especially considering that Chromebooks are mobile devices, too. Why didn’t Google just use Android for its netbooks? Or, why did Google create Android when it planned on making its own OS in the first place?
The answer here could be due to the fact that Google was weighing whether Android or Chrome would be more popular and practical. Android proved to be quite popular, Chrome OS, maybe not as much. So why replace something that’s already popular with consumers? Practicality may win out in this situation.
As our own Mike Wheatley pointed out out in an earlier piece, Google is all about its own name or brand. Android was something it acquired, it wasn’t Google-made. Not to mention the high profile law suits that Android’s caused over the years, facing industry giants like Oracle and Microsoft for licensing agreements. So by eliminating Android, Google could redirect the focus to its own brand once again.