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Android and Windows, Living Together in Perfect Harmony?

By Katherine Noyes
Oct 22, 2009 4:00 AM PT

Fall may be the season for leaf-gazing and apple cider, but this year there's no doubt it's also the season for Android.

Android and Windows, Living Together in Perfect Harmony?

Just short of one year after the announcement of the first Android phone -- HTC's Dream, marketed by T-Mobile as G1 -- WiseAndroid proclaimed on Monday that there are no fewer than 50 (yes, five-zero!) Android phones expected in the near future. The site even published a list that includes each and every one of them, indicating when those not yet released are expected.

The news made quite a splash on Slashdot, among other sites, garnering more than 350 comments in less than 24 hours.

Fifty! Forget Windows 7 -- now *that's* starting the week off with a bang! iPhone, where are all *your* friends...?

Dual-Boot Netbook

Then there was Acer's recent unveiling of its dual-boot Android/Windows netbook.

The Acer Aspire One AOD250 dual-boots both Android and Microsoft Windows XP, with Android acting as an "instant on" OS for Internet access while Windows boots up, according to a Gizmodo report.

Android takes just 18 seconds to boot on the device, Acer says; shutting down takes just 3 seconds.

Windows and Linux-based Android, living side by side in perfect harmony? You can bet bloggers jumped all over that one.

'I'll Take Any Darn OS'

"Wouldn't [it] be better to offer fast booting Linux (Moblin?) and dual boot with Win?" asked jackharrer on Slashdot, for example. "Then users can access nice and quick Linux environment or wait for Win if they 'really' need Office.

"Android is good for phones, but that's how far it goes..." jackharrer added.

On the other hand: "Ill take any darn OS if i just can avoid paying the Microsoft tax," countered miffo.swe. "The common misconception that nobody wanted Linux on netbooks is utter bullshit.

"They sold boatloads of netbooks before they started shipping them with a heavily discounted XP and suddenly, despite consumer demand, they also yanked any Linux loaded netbook," miffo.swe added.

Will there be a market for dual-boot machines like this one? Linux Girl took to the streets to find out.

'Useful for Newbies'

"Right now, I'm just hoping that Acer makes the AOD250 software work on my ordinary D250," Slashdot blogger drinkypoo told LinuxInsider.

"If they don't, I'm never buying another Acer product again, since the difference is apparently software," he added.

"As much as I would like to see the world flooded with GNU/Linux-speaking netbooks, dual-booting is a useful technique for newbies," blogger Robert Pogson told LinuxInsider. "They can quickly get down to work in GNU/Linux, and if they need some other application they can get it."

'No Place to Hide the Tax'

Ultimately, "perhaps 'the tax' will be phased out," Pogson added. "At least on netbooks, M$ will have to cut the tax to sell. Finally, some competition, side by side."

Ideally, "the netbook should go with ARM and GNU/Linux," he asserted. "We are down to around (US)$200 now, so there is no place to hide the tax. In a year or two, we could be around $150, less than the price of some licenses I have heard about -- that shows how overpriced monopoly can be."

Banks, ISPs and schools are all "distributing netbooks by the millions," Pogson pointed out. "GNU/Linux will make sense no matter who pays for them."

End of the Driver Problem?

By putting Windows and Linux on the device, Acer has just "killed the 'no driver for device foo' problem, as they can just say, 'reboot and use Windows,'" Slashdot blogger hairyfeet told LinuxInsider.

Yet Android is "less of an OS and more like one of those 'instant on' embedded Linux chips that many of the new motherboards I'm selling have," hairyfeet added. "You know what I found? Folks play with those for a while, then ultimately end up spending their time in Windows because there is always one thing that ends up a 'must have.'

"For me it was my laptop's wireless; for the girl down the street it may be her favorite camera software -- for everyone it is different," hairyfeet added. "But I'm willing to bet if you tracked Android usage for a year on those things, you would see by month three that the Windows ends up getting used more and more, with the Linux relegated to simple 'I need to check my webmail' kinds of tasks."

'Browsers-in-a-Box'

Linux is clearly superior in many roles, but on the desktop, widespread use will require a stable ABI "so manufacturers can just add Linux drivers to their discs," hairyfeet asserted. "Until then, the ONLY way I see Linux being used at all by Joe Average is these 'instant-on' browsers-in-a-box like what Android will be on that Acer."

In such cases, users "aren't doing their 'real work' in Linux -- it's just a browser-in-a-box," he concluded. "And until things get better, sadly, I think that is where Linux will stay."

If the main advantage of such a device is the instant-on capability, "all modern OSes support software suspend -- also called 'sleep,' 'standby' or 'suspend to RAM,'" Slashdot blogger David Masover pointed out, and all of those are "nearly instant-on," he said.

"The Mac has been the best at this, in my experience -- almost by the time you can get a Macbook lid open, you're logged in," he added.

'I Am Excited'

"I am excited to see more hardware manufacturers pick up instant-on options for their hardware," Slashdot blogger Josh Ulmer told LinuxInsider.

Such capabilities not only provide easily accessible Web connectivity without much of the "full feature 'bloat' that plagues most modern Oses" -- thereby providing a welcome option -- but also "put pressure on OS developers to streamline their boot processes," he explained.

Most modern systems are still based on "ideas that are years, if not decades, old," Ulmer noted.

'A Feature They Never Knew They Wanted'

"When consumers realize there is the potential for an extremely responsive response time, greatly improving battery life, it becomes a feature they never knew they really wanted," he added. "Geeks have been complaining about boot times for years -- it will be nice to see the general public start asking questions as well."

Linux Girl's perspective? Android on phones and netbooks is a great introduction to Linux for many who haven't used it before. If some are more likely to try it in a dual-boot device, requiring less of an upfront commitment, then all the better for Linux -- and all the worse, ultimately, for Redmond.


Is "too much screen time" really a problem?
Yes -- smartphone addiction is ruining relationships.
Yes -- but primarily due to parents' failure to regulate kids' use.
Possibly -- long-term effects on health are not yet known.
Not really -- lack of self-discipline and good judgement are the problems.
No -- angst over "screen time" is just the latest overreaction to technology.
No -- what matters is the quality of content, not the time spent viewing it.