Is Android 4.0 mature enough to replace a desktop PC? I’m writing this post with Chrome Beta for Android on my Asus Transformer Prime and I think it’s almost there. Previously I was disappointed with the Browser performance on the Prime, but the recent software updates to Android 4.0.3 combined with the Chrome browser are starting to live up to my expectations.
Before there was almost no way I could get any real content creation done on the Prime, but it is now passable. The performance still does not match my Samsung ultrabook, but I have noticed great improvements since I first gave this a try last year. The keyboard lag with heavy web apps like WordPress is gone, scrolling is smooth, and my Logitech USB mouse works great.
I'm not the only one that thinks Android 4.0 is passable as a desktop operating system. Android enthusiast Christian Cantrell hooked up his Galaxy Nexus to a computer monitor, wireless keyboard with touchpad, and speakers to demonstrate the user experience. He notes that Android 4.0 has most of the functionality he could need, but the performance of the dual-core OMAP4460 in the Galaxy Nexus leaves a little to be desired.
Most Android manufactures have not really tried to push the envelope for this type of user experience, with the exception of Motorola. Their Atrix 4G was ahead of its time, but it clearly hinted where Android was going. We predicted over a year ago that Android, Chrome, and Google TV would merge onto a single device, and we are almost there.
Motorola's webtop experience and lapdock accessory were both cool ideas, but the final experience just sucked. Now that Google is taking over Motorola and hardware continues to advance at a rapid pace, we will finally see Sanjay Jha's original vision come true. Your smartphone will become your most personal computer and eventually replace your desktop or laptop PC.
ASUS is likely to be one of the first companies to produce one of these so called ultraphones. Their upcoming Padfone will dock into a tablet, that can dock into a keyboard, that can connect to any display. This modular design will be copied over and over by every other OEM.
We might still be another generation away from mobile processors that can deliver the PC-like performance we crave, but there are software solutions to fill the gap. NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang demonstrated this at CES. Apps like Splashtop provide a virtualized OS that delivers the same exact experience you would expect from a desktop PC.
As I wrote yesterday, I still think Chrome will one day overtake Android as Google's platform for connected devices, but that could be a decade away. Over the next five years, I see Android becoming the number one operating system on all web clients.
I realize this might sound crazy and Windows still has 70-80% market share depending on the source, but who would have predicted that Android would become the top smartphone OS as fast as it did. Smartphone sales already overtook client PCs in 2011, and that trend will continue to accelerate.
What do you think the Android ecosystem needs to deliver before you would give up your PC?