Asus' Transformer Book V, unveiled on Monday, is the Taiwanese tech giant's second attempt at merging Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 8 with Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android operating system. With a smartphone, tablet and keyboard dock, the Transformer Book V could be the first device that finally satisfies all of a user's computing needs.
A series of dockable gadgets
Like a series of Russian dolls, the Transformer Book V is composed of three pieces of dockable hardware. A 5-inch Android smartphone and 12.5-inch Windows 8 tablet form the base. The smartphone can be plugged into the back of tablet, creating a large Android tablet in the process. That tablet, in turn, docks to a keyboard, becoming either a Windows 8- or Android-powered Ultrabook (with the press of a button, users can easily switch between the operating systems to suit their needs).
Details remain scant, but if the price is right, the Transformer Book V could appeal to a group of highly mobile users that want easy access to a variety of different computing devices. Plenty of people own all three devices and use them regularly -- a single device that offers the best of all three could prove immensely attractive.
Google and Microsoft aren't interested in such a machine
But I would be surprised if Asus' PC ever arrives on store shelves. This isn't the first such device Asus has demonstrated -- in January, it showed off the Transformer Book Duet, a similar product that didn't include the smartphone, but did offer access to both Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows. Asus wasn't alone in exploring this concept -- Samsung's Ativ Q hybrid tablet, originally demonstrated in 2013, likewise offered dual operating systems.
But despite OEMs interest in the hybrid market, these devices have never been made available for purchase. In February, Digitimes, citing a Chinese publication, reported that Google had pressured Asus to delay the Transformer Book Duet indefinitely. Six months later, the Transformer Book Duet is nowhere to be found.
Microsoft, too, has been said to be unhappy with the introduction of such hybrid devices; according to The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft also encouraged Asus not to release the Transformer Book Duet.
Such devices bring risks to Google and Microsoft's respective platforms -- a hybrid buyer may find that he spends most of his time working in Google's Android, leading him to discover that he no longer needs Microsoft's Windows. The reverse could also prove true.
Microsoft's position on hybrids has been mixed. A report from The Verge indicated that Microsoft was mulling the creation of an Android emulator -- a solution that would allow Android apps to run on Windows 8. Other reports have indicated that Microsoft has been encouraging phone manufacturers to consider releasing dual booting smartphones -- hybrid handsets that would offer both Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows Phone. Side-by-side, owners of these gadgets could find they prefer Microsoft's mobile operating system over Google's, perhaps boosting Windows Phone's single-digit market share in the process.
Some Microsoft investors, such as Longboard Asset Management, have argued that the emergence of these hybrid devices would be bullish for Microsoft, allowing Windows to survive in a world of mobile devices.
Perhaps, but it also highlights just how precarious Microsoft's mobile position is. Its recently released Surface Pro 3 is intended to showcase Windows 8's dual tablet/desktop functionality, doubling as both a tablet and a laptop -- but with many major tablet apps still missing from Microsoft's app store, Windows 8 is far from an ideal mobile operating system. Asus' decision to bring Google's operating system into the mix appears to aimed at rectifying this problem.
The Transformer Book V could shake up the operating system market
Despite having its previous efforts allegedly squashed by Microsoft and Google, Asus is clearly interested in pursuing hybrid devices. It remains to be seen if the Transformer Book V will actually see the light of day, but if it does, and if it succeeds and starts a trend, it could have immense ramifications for the operating system market.