The best of both worlds

Android at CES 2014: The green robot is everywhere

Elliot Bentley
android-ces-teaser

Google’s OS makes appearances on TVs, cameras and cars – and hybridizes with Windows 8 desktops.

Android may have been born on mobile devices, but the
open-source operating system is now expanding beyond phones and
tablets to a whole range of consumer devices. At CES in Las Vegas
this week, Android was being shown off on PCs, online-enabled
cameras, smart TVs, and even cars.

There was at least one notable mobile announcement:
the
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
, a high-end smartphone that, at 4.3
inches across, eschews the trend for giant displays without
skimping on power. Less traditional is the
Polaroid Socialmatic camera
, a single device with Android and a
zero-ink printer which can both send snaps to social networks and
print out physical copies on the spot.

Android! On your PC! With Windows!

This two-in-one, more-is-more approach appears to be
in fashion at CES this year, judging by the bizarre 2-in-1 PCs
running both Windows 8 and Android. It’s an obvious snub to
Microsoft, which conceived Windows 8 as a “no compromises” OS for
tablets, PCs and weird in-between devices like the Lenovo Yoga.
However, it’s too early to tell whether this trend is a mere
marketing gimmick, a transition period to full Android PCs, or a
genuine evolution in personal computing.

The first of these will be the
Asus Transformer Book Duet
, a laptop that can shed its keyboard
half to become a tablet. The Transformer line has
driven record profits
for the company, and the Duet retains
this winning form factor, with the addition of a software button to
switch between its two operating systems in around four seconds.
Powered by a Haswell CPU, the Duet is
promised
to be the first of many hybrid devices powered by
Intel chips.

However, Intel are not the only chip manufacturer to
get on board the hybrid train: AMD are
also integrating Windows with Android
, albeit in a different
way. Rather than dual-booting Android, its devices can launch
Android apps from Windows start screen as if they were native apps.
This virtualization layer is provided by BlueStacks; and if it all
sounds a bit too familiar, that might be because Lenovo announced
a similar partnership with BlueStacks at last year’s CES.

AMD are at least promising one unique selling point to
their implementation, one which only a chip specialist could
provide: hybrid CPUs with both x86 and ARM architectures,
theoretically reducing the power needed to run both OSes.

Android! On your TV!

Android will also be reaching even larger screens,
powering
Philip’s next wave of high-end Ambilight TVs
. Slated for around
June 2014, details on these new smart TVs are still scant, but
Philips have promised access to the entire Google Play store.

However, LG has garnered more column inches with its
adoption of another mobile operating system, WebOS, for its
smart TVs
. It could be a second coming for the ill-fated Palm
software, which was open sourced (and abandoned) by HP in late
2011.

Google themselves are
rumoured
to be weighing in with a “Nexus TV” set-top box this
year that will also run Android, presumably replacing the
all-but-abandoned Google TV line.

Android! In your car!

The most unusual place Android may end up in the near
future is your car’s dashboard. In a
blog post
, Google announced an “Open Automotive Alliance” which
already includes manufacturers Audi, GM, Honda and Hyundai. The
group is, said Google, “working to enable new forms of integration
with Android devices, and adapting Android for the car to make
driving safer, easier and more enjoyable for everyone”.

The group’s name is reminiscent of the Open Handset Alliance,
another cross-industry group promoting open standards and
interoperability across mobile Android devices. Google have been

accused
of using the OHA to stifle innovation in recent years,
but it has likely reduced the level of fragmentation across the
Android ecosystem.

It’s a very different approach to Apple, whose
iOS in the
Car
essentially turns your vehicle into a glorified iPhone
dock. Around 20 vehicle manufacturers are apparently invested in
the scheme, including three members of Google’s new OAA.

However, it’s worth noting that car manufacturing works at a far
slower pace than mobile handsets, and unlike many of CES’ other
exciting gadgets, may not be available to buy for years.

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