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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.

Dual-boot tablets are a curiosity in developing countries, especially among direct buyers who do not want to resell the product, said Paul Wu, a representative for Shenzhen Potato Technology. Poor attendance at Computex made it difficult for Wu to gauge the real demand for dual-boot tablets, but the company was displaying one as an option alongside its Windows and Android-only tablets.

An inventive dual-boot 8-inch tablet called U80GT with both an Intel and ARM processor was shown by Shenzhen Alldocube Technology and Science. The tablet was a little thicker and heavier than the Intel-only dual-boot tablets on the floor. The quad-core Intel Bay Trail chip ran Windows 8, while the ARM Cortex-A7 processor core ran Android 4.2. The ARM processor supports more Android applications than the Intel chip, and is also considered more power efficient. ARM does not run Windows 8, and having separate processors keeps the OSes truly isolated and easier to update, a company representative said.

Some other small Chinese tablet makers didn't show off dual-boot tablets but are toying with the idea. The demand isn't heavy, but they may ship products if they get enough orders.

Wibtek, a tablet maker in Shenzhen, will likely ship dual-boot systems into South Africa and other developing countries later this year, a sales representative said later this year. The company didn't show a dual-boot tablet, but building such a tablet is easy and could be possibly sold at a budget price of between $200 and $300, the representative said. A final decision will depend on demand.

But some device makers are not enthused about dual-boot tablets.

Microsoft and Google want only their operating systems on tablets, said a sales manager for Zaidtek Electronic Technology Xiamen. The company may make a dual-boot tablet, but they are seeing growing demand for Windows tablets.

Dell also ruled out building a dual-boot tablet at the show. Customers don't want to spend "10, 20, 30 seconds, a minute or two in some cases, moving between operating systems," said Neil Hand, vice president in Dell's tablet product group, in an interview.

File sharing between the partitioned operating systems is a problem, Hand said. And users don't need dual-boot as multiple Android and Windows devices can already be tethered via wireless or the cloud to exchange data, Hand said.

"We very much believe that dual boot — in the way it's being looked at right now — is a mistake for customers," Hand said.


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