We’re seeing reports this week (apparently based on leaked user manuals) that Lenovo is about to release an Android-powered laptop, the A-10. But it’s not Android itself that’s important here, it’s the fact that non-Windows options are suddenly proliferating. System makers are looking for alternatives, 1) because they’re tired of paying exorbitant license fees to Microsoft, and 2) because Windows 8 has been a disaster for them. They were happy to pay ‘the Microsoft tax’ only as long as Microsoft was steering a profitable course.
The upshot is that we’re moving back to a world more like we had in the early 1990s… numerous OSes all jockeying for market share, and more than just one or two (Win and Mac) being reasonably profitable at it. In its futile scramble to capture “devices and services,” Microsoft has released its grip on PC software. Now both users and manufacturers are starting to consider alternatives.
At this point, it’s inevitable that we’ll be seeing Android on many new platforms. (MadCatz just released the M.O.J.O., which is Android on a living-room media box.) This is s not a bad thing, even if it’s not something you want for yourself. Millions of people have come to know Android as well as (or better than) they know Windows. Android is easy, even fun to use. It’s lightweight yet powerful. It’s got a huge software (app) library. And, heck, it may even push open the door a bit wider for full-blown GNU/Linux adoption.
In fact, never mind Android. Ask yourself why ChromeBooks are selling at all, or why Google thinks they might sell, eventually. Android is a powerhouse compared to Chrome, and comes without the tight apron-strings. The fact that even a half-assed platform like Chrome is starting to look like a contender is like a neon sign announcing that Microsoft’s decades of dominance are over.
The obvious thing to do at this point would be to start placing bets on which OS will become the “successor” to Windows. Obvious, but extremely premature. If there is ever again any one OS as dominant as Windows has been, it won’t be for some years. What we’re going to see in the immediate future is a more diverse ecosystem, with Android, iOS, Chrome OS, SteamOS and a boatload of GNU/Linux distros all carving out chunks.
It’s going to be confusing and frustrating and inefficient, but that will be a huge improvement over the stagnation we’ve been living with since the early part of the new millennium.