Android becomes the Windows of opportunity

It goes both ways. But maybe not much longer.

Microsoft continues to slide toward the back of the mass computing market pack. Three more signs it’s losing its grip on consumer-grade devices:

  • Acer is coming out with an ARM-based desktop PC that runs the Android operating system. Earlier this year, Acer was the first major manufacturer to report that Linux-based Chromebooks were trending better than Windows PCs.
  • Asus just announced a hybrid tablet/desktop product with two Intel processors that runs Android in tablet mode and Windows when it’s docked. Apparently, Asus thinks any clunkiness caused by having two OSes onboard will be outweighed by the superior user experience Android delivers on mobile devices.
  • Microsoft is slashing the price manufacturers pay to install Windows RT on small tablets. It seems particularly desperate because RT was the first Windows version released for ARM processors, which dominate in mobile devices.

Windows simply doesn’t add enough value to a device to justify its cost. Arguably, it doesn’t add any value at all compared to Android, which is free.

Cutting the price for RT isn’t an exception. It’s the first step onto the slippery slope of competing on price rather than relying on the power and user experience of Windows to make the sale. Such as it is.

Keep a close eye on how Acer and Asus fare with their new products. If Acer starts to expand its desktop Android line – particularly into Intel-powered devices – and Asus stays the course with a dual OS strategy, it’ll be a clear sign that Microsoft will eventually have to cut its margin on Windows across the board.

Android is just a consumerised version of Linux developed for mobile devices. If it “just works” with consumers, there’s no reason full scale distros, like Ubuntu, can’t do the same. Microsoft is learning it’s hard to compete with free.