A Windows machine that can easily switch into being an Android device. That two-heads-are-better-than-one approach to operating systems reached a kind of pinnacle of visibility this week, when Intel CEO Brian Krzanich used his Consumer Electronics Show keynote address Monday to promote the idea -- which competing chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices is also pushing.
Instead of shutting down one OS and booting the other, as is currently possible in a dual-boot machine, the idea is to seamlessly move between the two competing operating systems via a button click. Intel's approach focuses on its system-on-a-chip products, while AMD's utilizes software from BlueStacks to run Android inside Windows.
AMD said the existing and popular BlueStacks Android app player will, as part of the companies' collaboration, support a fully virtualized Android environment that runs most Android apps in an Android UI inside a Windows desktop, thus avoiding the resource-intensive requirements of dual-booting.
Asus' Transformer Book Duet
Intel's Krzanich demonstrated his company's approach with Asus' new Transformer Book Duet TD 300, announced on Monday. Asus describes it as "the world's first quad-mode, dual-OS laptop and tablet convertible that allows users to switch between Windows and Android in either laptop or tablet modes with just a single push of the Instant Switch button or a virtual key on the tablet." While performance might be a consideration for a device with so many combinations, Asus asserts that the new Intel-based model can run "up to twice as fast" as current ARM-based tablets.
According to Krzanich, "there are times you want Windows, there are times you want Android." While it's hard to assess if users are actually clamoring for dealing with the vagaries of two operating systems, Intel clearly is willing. A dual-OS strategy covers a lot of bases for the chipmaker -- allowing it to maintain a foot in the desktop-and-laptop world where Windows is still dominant, as well as in the world where Android reigns.
In different but comparable ways, dual-OS modes appeal to AMD as well. That company can also appeal to users who want access to Google Play store apps, but without giving up access to, say, the Windows file system.
'The Experience they Want'
It also lets AMD play peacemaker in the tired but reoccurring argument about which OS is better. "The real 'best' solution," AMD Senior Marketing Manager Clarice Simmons posted on the company's blog, "is the one that gives users the experience they want." Simmons goes on to note that Android is on slightly more than 52 percent of U.S. mobile devices, including tablets, and over 80 percent of smartphones globally, while over 80 percent of desktops run some form of Windows.
Simmons acknowledges that virtualized OS's have existed before, but said now AMD is taking the popular Android environment and giving it direct access to "high performance AMD APUs, with powerful AMD Radeon graphics built-in."
In a direct way, this approach by two leading chipmakers undercuts Microsoft's central strategy for Windows 8 -- provide an OS that reaches across desktops, laptops and tablets, with some kinship to the Windows Phone OS on smartphones.