Windows 8 with a Side of Android? Sounds Nice, but Unlikely

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Microsoft, Google, Techland Illustration

Imagine being able to run Android alongside Windows 8 on a tablet. If you’re an Android phone user, you’d have access to the same apps and services, but you’d also get the productivity benefits of a proper PC, along with Microsoft’s own Metro-style tablet interface.

According to DigiTimes, Google is trying to get device makers to include the next version of its Android operating system, Android 5.0, on Windows 8 tablets. But as one device maker source tells me, Microsoft has already taken steps to prevent Windows and Android hybrid machines from happening.

(MORE: Windows 8 Consumer Preview Coming in February)

A Windows license can be one of the most expensive parts of a computer, at around $100 per PC. But device makers can take roughly $30 to $40 off the unit price if they ship enough volume, and if they conform to certain marketing requirements.

One of those requirements, I’m told, is that computers can’t be marketed as running anything but Windows. In other words, no “Windows + Android” devices allowed, unless device makers want give up their discounts. (The restriction apparently applies to Windows 7, but I imagine it would carry over to Windows 8 as well.)

To be clear, this won’t preclude users from loading their own dual-boot solutions on Windows 8 PCs, but even that may be impossible on ARM-based tablets, where a Secure Boot requirement essentially restricts the hardware to Windows-only. On x86-based machines–ones with processors made mainly by Intel and AMD–if a user installs another operating system, that’s out of the device maker’s hands.

(PICTURES: The First Windows 8 Tablet)

Also, the scenario DigiTimes is describing is a bit fuzzy. The site says Google will “integrate its Chrome system functions to push dual-operating system designs,” but also says vendors can “add Android 5.0 to Windows 8 devices with the ability to switch between the two OSes without the need to shut down the computer.” The report seems to be conflating Chrome OS and Android, which are two completely separate operating systems.

Either way, if device makers get the idea to include a Google operating system on their Windows machines, they may face repercussions from Microsoft.

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