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Dual-boot Windows and Android tablets live on at small Chinese manufacturers

Agam Shah | June 6, 2014
Small Chinese tablet makers are experimenting with dual-boot tablets with Windows and Linux.

Small Chinese tablet makers continue to experiment with dual-boot tablets running Windows or Android, a market that big device makers have shied from.

Some of these makers could ship cheap tablets later this year.

At the Computex trade show in Taipei, a handful of small tablet makers from Shenzhen, China, were showing prototype tablets with 8-inch to 10-inch screens that could boot into Windows 8.1 or Android 4.4 or 4.2.

The tablet makers said there was some interest in dual-boot tablets, especially in developing markets. They were receiving inquiries for the tablets from direct buyers, not device makers. Some tablets were built with Intel's Atom chip code-named Bay Trail, which supports Android and Windows, and also used BIOSes able to boot into both operating systems.

Many Chinese tablet makers, who showed only Windows or Android tablets, found building dual-boot tablets was expensive, if one took into account the OS and hardware costs. PC maker Dell also said it would not offer dual-boot tablets, as files could not be easily shared between the Windows and Android partitions, and people wouldn't want to spend time switching between OSes.

Asus in January introduced one of the first dual-boot systems, the Transformer Book Duet TD300, which was ultimately cancelled, and was considered a nail in the coffin for dual-boot tablets and PCs. But Asus was at it again at Computex, introducing the Transformer V, a hybrid that could switch between operating systems with just the press of a button.

The dual-boot tablets from small Chinese companies were not as fancy, and looked like standard Windows 8 tablets with Android hidden inside. A 10.1-inch M1010 tablet shown by Boeye booted to present an option to load into Windows 8.1 or Android 4.4, with the logo of BIOS maker American Megatrends prominent at the bottom of the screen.

The tablet cost roughly US$120 to make after including hardware and OS costs. Users could also reboot into Windows from the Android shut down screen. The system ran on Intel's Atom Z3740D quad-core processor, and other features included up to 128GB of storage, 2GB of RAM and a 1080 x 800-pixel screen.

Customers prefer a single OS in devices, and there have been some inquiries for dual-boot tablets, said Perry Zhiang, overseas sales director at Boeye, which is based in Shenzhen. With the 10.1-inch screen size, there was interest in Windows for productivity apps, and Android for mobile apps, Zhiang said.

Shenzhen Potato Technology showed an 8-inch dual-boot tablet with a similar boot screen to load into Windows 8.1 or Android 4.2. The tablet had a 1280 x 800-pixel screen, an Intel Atom Z3735E processor, up to 8GB of storage and 1GB of DDR3 RAM.


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