One of the huge advantages of a Windows 8 tablet versus an Android tablet is that with Windows you also get the power of x86 legacy apps that can be ran and controlled via keyboard and mouse. For those that are looking to use their tablet as a replacement for their desktop/laptop, this is a key difference.
What if that advantage eventually disappeared? That’s exactly what development of WINE for Android could mean in the not-too-distant future. For those that don’t know, WINE is a tool/program in the Unix and Linux world that allows many (but certainly not all) Windows apps to run natively inside of operating systems like Ubuntu.
A very early build of the Android version was recently shown off at the “Free and Open Source Software Developers European Meeting” in Brussels. The Wine developer Alexandre Julliard showed used his Macbook running Linux and was running an Android emulator with WINE running inside of it.
Due to not using ‘native’ ARM Android hardware, this resulted in a pretty slow experience but it still certainly provided a proof of concept. As you can imagine, this is an early work in progress but it has already drawn the attention of Codeweaver’s.
Who is that you ask? They are a commercial software company that makes a Linux program known as “CrossOver”. It is based on WINE technology but furthers it and makes it much easier to run applications with less tweaking on the user’s end.
More than likely, when the ability to run Windows programs hits Android, it will be done through a commercial effort like CrossOver.
Is this a threat to Windows 8 tablets?
Right now, absolutely not. In the future though? That’s a tough question. If it was an Intel-based Android tablets (which barely exists), then I’d say that would certainly give some performance that might make a big difference.
For most Android users though, they run on an ARM processor. What that means is that a layer of emulation must occur in order for Windows applications to run on Android. That means at least a little slow down. With ARM processors already slower than Intel counterparts, it would be VERY difficult to run programs like Adobe Photoshop, though perhaps Microsoft Office could function.
It is worth considering though that mobile ARM processors are advancing quickly. At CES this year we saw several demonstrations from the big ARM processor companies for 8-core designs. As time passes, the speed barrier might be less of an issue.
With an established ecosystem in place, many Android users might find the idea of running a few of their “most crucial” Windows apps via Android a better idea than switching completely to a Windows tablet.
What do you think, could this eventually prove to be a real threat for Microsoft Windows-based tablets or will emulation/speed issues largely make this a non-issue? Share your thoughts below.