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Why the time is right for the 'Droidbook'

Mark Hachman | June 11, 2013
With the confluence of touch, tablets, and Android-powered productivity apps, the time might be right for manufacturers to think about Android-powered notebooks.


Years ago, when Google launched its ChromeOS-powered Chromebooks, people wondered why they weren't powered by Android, its existing mobile OS. It's time to start asking those questions again.

At Computex this week, Acer showed off a prototype desktop running Android, the N3-220, opening the door to the possibility that similar products might follow. While there's no certainty that Acer's N3-220 will ever come to market, one has to ask: Does an Android-powered PC make sense?

On the desktop, probably not. Stretching out an Android app to the proportions used by non-touch-enabled desktop monitors would look awful—and even worse still if the app was originally designed for a phone. But on a smaller, touch-enabled notebook like the Chromebook Pixel? Very possibly. And if you designed a convertible Android-powered tablet that could quickly connect you to the Internet and Google's suite of cloud-powered connectivity services, then you'd have all the power of a Chromebook, and then some.

Microsoft offers an inexpensive Surface tablet. Apple has the iPad. Google and its partners offer an array of tablets, and the Chromebooks to boot. An Android powered "Droidbook" isn't necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution. The argument here is for choice: If consumers are turning to tablets, an Android-powered notebook or convertible could offer a mix of productivity and entertainment, and provide another alternative for PC makers struggling to survive against an onslaught of tablets.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Apps might be the key
For about a year, I used a Chromebook and a Chromebox as my "daily driver," the "PC" I used for all of my mundane daily tasks. From my perspective, the appeal of ChromeOS—and, it should be said, the MacBook Air—is its instant-on ability. As a reporter, I've run into too many occasions where I've walked into a keynote address or a teleconference bang on time, only to be forced to miss the first few minutes while Windows booted, or, worse still, applied patches.

If ChromeOS needed patching, it did so quietly in the background. Rebooting to apply the patches could be done at my convenience, and required just a few seconds to return to the tab in which I was working.

To its credit, ChromeOS walked down the aisle with the emergence of the Web. For many, Web services have replaced apps, which have replaced dedicated software packages. There's very little I can't do within a Web browser, provided that I'm willing to use Google's services.

With that said, I missed my ability to play games. And talk on Skype (with those who wished to use it). And launch dedicated apps like WebEx.


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