China's Jide Technology has launched a mini-PC that runs a customized version of Android that is optimized for personal computing. Known as the Remix MINI, it was born out of a Kickstarter campaign that broke some records by raising well over $1,5 million.
What is rather surprising is that Jide Technology seems to be ahead of Google in this regard - which hasn't shown great interest to build more PC-like features into Android so far. Although, on the other hand this is hardly surprising as the company was founded by three ex-Google engineers.
In the past, most of the attempts at getting Android on PCs were at best slight modifications of the tablet interface (itself not that different from the phone interface) put on a much larger screen, while still working like a tablet.
However, and correctly so, it's not the OEMs that should be investing their money into making Android a success on PCs, but Google.
"Android is Google's most successful product yet, actively used by more than a billion users, and it's also the company's best chance to ever pose a serious threat to Windows on the desktop."
With that said, Google doesn't seem willing to engage in such a vision for Android just yet. Instead, it seems that it prefers to limp along in the market with Chromebooks; although they keep growing in popularity, it doesn't seem to be happening particularly fast.
ASUS Eee Pad Transformer.
As things are at the moment, it could take anywhere up to a decade before Google reaches something like 20 percent market share, and that's probably an optimistic outlook for Chrome OS.
Google is trying to add Android apps to Chrome OS one by one, and this is not going to improve things much. It's an OS where they don't feel quite like at home, and at this rate it's going to take forever to match the richness of the mobile Android's ecosystem of apps.
It would make much more sense to simply optimize a custom version of Android - the way Google has already done for TVs, smartwatches, the car industry, and even the Internet of Things (IoT) market - for PCs, rather than try to integrate Android apps into a browser-based operating system.
"Being productive is key here. Although we're doing so many more things today on our phones than we did 10 years ago, smartphones still have their hard limitations, given their small screens and touch keyboards."
The reason the previous attempts to put Android on a PC have failed so far is because they weren't making users that much more productive than they were on their phones. Plus, the interface was completely inadequate for a desktop environment.
Enter The Remix MINI
While it's still not clear whether Google will even bring a multi-window system to Android M (the code seems to exist, but it hasn't been announced as a feature yet), Jide Technology have already launched a sub-$100 64-bit PC that runs a custom Lollipop-based version of Android, fully optimized for the desktop environment.
Remix MINI Technical Specifications.
The Remix OS allows you to run multiple Android apps at the same time, be they spreadsheets, chat apps, browsers and whatever else you want, just as you would on a competing PC desktop OS. The best part is everything looks as it should. It has pretty material design aesthetics, supports multiple windows running at the same time (as a desktop OS should), and it even has a taskbar and a start button.
App Ecosystem Comparison.
The advantage of an Android-based PC OS is that it can access over 1.5 million apps from day one, unlike Chrome OS, for which developers have to compile their apps one at a time.
Many Android apps won't look like they were designed for a desktop environment when run inside the Remix OS, but you can run tablet apps that go full screen, or phone apps that make just as much sense on the desktop as they do on a phone (as it is the case with chat applications, for instance).
The Remix Mini PC offers hardware powerful enough to run a more efficient mobile OS such as Android (compared to most desktop operating systems).
The more successful the sub $100 Remix MINI and the Remix OS become, the higher the chance that Google could eventually start taking the idea of a PC-optimized version of Android seriously itself and start working on it - or perhaps even acquire the Jide Tech company for its head start and expertise.