Fearing rapidly plummeting sales of traditional laptops and desktop computers -- which collapsed by as much as 10 percent in 2013 -- manufacturers are planning a revolution against Microsoft and the standard Windows operating system, analysts say.
At the mammoth Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in early January, multiple computer makers will unveil systems that simultaneously run two different operating systems, both Windows and the Android OS that powers many of the world’s tablets and smartphones, two different analysts said recently. The new devices will be called “PC Plus” machines, explained Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies.
"A PC Plus machine will run Windows 8.1 but will also run Android apps as well," Bajarin wrote recently for Time. "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."
These machines will be able to switch nearly instantly between the two operating systems, according to Computerworld, either booting both interfaces at the same time or running tablet apps meant for Android within a window, explained Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.
"This is going to make buzz at CES," Moorhead told Computerworld. "OEMs will be trumpeting this ... it's going to be a very hot topic [at the trade show]."
The move is the latest push back against Microsoft and its Windows 8 operating system, an attempt at dramatic transformation of the traditional Windows desktop to incorporate touch screens and portable tablet shapes.
Consumers responded poorly, with widespread complaints about an interface that, while wonderful on tablets, essentially ignored the hundreds of millions of computer users worldwide that rely on mice and keyboards to interact with their systems. Desktop and laptop PC sales fell dramatically in 2013, according to data from research firm IDC. And sales of tablets running Windows 8, while growing, have in no way replaced them.
"The Windows-based tablet market … is expected to grow to 39.3 million units in 2017 from less than 7.5 million in 2013 and less than 1 million in 2011. However, relative to a PC market size of roughly 300 million units, these Windows tablets would add just a couple percent a year relative to PC growth," said Loren Loverde, a vice president with IDC.
Microsoft plans yet another update to Windows 8 to address user concerns, likely called Windows 8.2. In the meantime the company has launched a campaign to disparage systems running Google's OS, especially Chromebooks, which are yet another alternative to the traditional Windows PC.
A new TV ads in Microsoft's "Scroogled" campaign suggest that a Chromebook is "not a real laptop." That hasn't stopped the low-cost systems from taking off, especially in education markets.
Moorhead suggests that “PC Plus” devices mean manufacturers won’t wait for Windows 8.2 or other efforts to "fix" the operating system, instead experimenting with ways to desert Microsoft for alternatives.
"[PC Plus] could get millions of consumers more comfortable with Android on PCs," said Moorhead. "Just imagine for a second what happens when Android gets an improved large-screen experience."
"This should scare the heck out of Microsoft," he added.