Friday, Dec 19, 2014

Is Android good enough to be a laptop operating system?

The Lenovo IdeaPad A10 runs Android 4.2 as the OS The Lenovo IdeaPad A10 runs Android 4.2 as the OS
Written by Mihir Patkar | Posted: April 7, 2014 10:07 am | Updated: April 8, 2014 8:59 pm

With Windows 8, Microsoft wants one operating system that works well both on both desktop PCs and tablets. Google, meanwhile, has chosen Android as its tablet and smartphone interface while developing Chrome OS for laptops. So what happens when you put Android on a laptop with a touchscreen, like with the Lenovo Ideapad A10?

Not Quite Android

Many smartphone makers choose to put custom UI skins on Android. Usually, I’m not a fan of that. But on laptops, it’s a necessity. Android isn’t made for laptops, so to make it usable with this form factor, things need to change. Which is why Lenovo has introduced things like a custom dock which mimics the Windows Launch Superbar.

Android also needs a keyboard which steps away from the traditional Windows and Linux keyboards, with special buttons for common Android features like apps drawer, multi-tasking, etc.

But the downside of all this is that these are, in the end, cosmetic changes—the limit of what a company can do without moving beyond the core challenges Android faces as a laptop OS.

Apps, Apps, Apps

The big problem for Android is that its apps are not made for use in a laptop or desktop setting, they are made with the intent of being touched. While some of them translate decently to a keyboard+mouse interface, they still don’t match up to what you would get on Windows. And this is especially found wanting in the quality of the programs.

No office suite, for example, matches up to what you get in Microsoft Office on Windows or Mac. Kingsoft Office and others are decent, but the mobile versions are not as robust as desktop alternatives. Try working with tables in the word processor or try a spreadsheet file with macros and the limitations of mobile office suites come to the fore.

Then there’s the complete lack of support for professional applications. Adobe Photoshop Touch or any other image-editing app on Android doesn’t hold a candle to their desktop counterparts.

But perhaps the most damaging thing for Android is that its mobile browsers aren’t as good as Chrome or Firefox on desktop. By default, these mobile browsers are set to load pages in mobile mode. With a few small hacks, you can set it so that the browser always fetches the desktop version of any website, but what makes Chrome and Firefox so great on desktop are the many extensions and plug-ins that make them a flawless interface to the internet. Without those, we might as well be using Internet Explorer, and that’s the same kind of limitation you feel when you use Chrome Mobile or Firefox Mobile on Android.

Bad Multi-tasking, Great Multimedia

The other thing that irks the Android laptop user is the lack of true multi-tasking. While floating windows have bridged the gap to an extent when compared to what you’d get on Windows or Linux, it’s continued…

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