Are Dual-Boot Devices Finally Dead?

Google and Microsoft are fighting to keep device makers from running two operating systems.

Mar 24, 2014 at 11:00AM

Well, that didn't take long. Just two months after Asus introduced its latest device that runs both Android and Windows, the company is backing down from selling it, and may stop sales of its other dual-boot systems.

Asus' decision is just a part of a broader push by Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) to clamp down on devices that run both companies' operating systems.

Android Windows Dual Boot
The Asus Transformer AiO P1801 runs both Windows 8 and Android 4.1. Source: Asus.

A new take on tablets
PC makers have been keen to find new ways to drum up interest in their products, and dual-boot devices that run Android in tablet mode and Windows in PC mode have been part of that strategy. But Microsoft isn't thrilled with this idea, considering that the company is working hard to convince tablet customers use its Windows 8 and Windows RT platforms.

The last thing Microsoft wants is for users to associate its platform solely with desktops and laptops. The company's Surface tablet got off to a rocky start in 2012, but has turned around a bit lately. In the first quarter of fiscal 2014, Microsoft had just $400 million in revenue from Surface tablets, but that more than doubled to $893 million in the second quarter. However, with the company still far behind Apple's iOS and Android in the tablet space, there's no way Microsoft wants Google's OS just a button push away.

The higher cost of a free OS
The other side to this coin is Google's desire for even more Android dominance. Even though Android is an open operating system that original equipment manufacturers such as Asus can use for free, it comes with a few caveats. One of them being, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, that Google can decide whether a specific device can access its app store.

This means that if Asus was somehow able to convince Microsoft that a dual-boot system was a good idea, Google could still deny the device access to the Google Play store -- meaning the tablet essentially couldn't run any apps. Obviously, that's not the ideal tablet situation.

Foolish final thoughts
Though Google and its investors should be happy Asus won't further pursue dual-boot systems, it's Microsoft investors who should be the most relieved. The last thing Microsoft needs right now is Android encroaching on devices that run Windows. There still may be a few dual-boot devices on the market, but this latest change is likely a bigger push by both Google and Microsoft that will eventually affect all OEMs.

That's good news for Microsoft because, although the Surface 2 has gained some steam, the company is still far behind Apple and Google in the mobile OS space. Microsoft still has the opportunity to differentiate itself from Apple and Google, but it has less of a chance to woo consumers if Android is just a tap away.

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Fool contributor Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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