When you think of Android you probably think of smartphones, or maybe tablets, watches, or TVs. But over the past few years we’ve seen a couple different companies attempt to turn Google’s mobile operating system into something you can comfortably run on a desktop.
Jide’s Remix OS was a high-profile attempt, but it’s pretty much dead. Phoenix OS is still around, but it’s primarily focused on the Chinese market.
Now an Indian startup is giving the idea another go with an Android-based operating system called PrimeOS. The first device to run the operating system is called the Primebook, and the folks at Notebook Italia got an early look at it at the Hong Kong Sourcing Fair this week.
Like other Android-for-laptop projects PrimeOS gives the operating system a taskbar, desktop, start menu-style app launcher, and support for multi-window mode, allowing you to run apps and games in resizable windows that you can position anywhere on the screen.
One nifty feature is a keymapping tool that helps you play touchscreen games using a keyboard. Say a racing game normally requires you to push on-screen buttons for steering, braking and acceleration and doesn’t support keyboard or joystick input. You can just move your mouse cursor over the buttons and assign a key to function as if you had tapped that part of the screen.
That comes in handy for a device like the Primebook, which doesn’t have a touchscreen.
There are also some custom apps for use in education, including a video lecture player that lets students take notes or create video bookmarks while watching, and a Prime eBook reader with PDF and EPUB support and text-to-speech functionality.
The latest version of PrimeOS is based on Android Nougat, but the developers are already working on updating it to Android Oreo. The operating system supports x86 and ARM-based processors.
As for the Primebook, it’s an entry-level laptop with a 13 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel TN display, a Rockchip RK3288 processor, 2GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a microSD card slot, WiFi Bluetooth a 10,000 mAh battery, HDMI, a 3.5mm audio jack, and two USB 3.0 ports.
But theoretically the operating system could be the bigger deal here, if the company can license its custom version of Android for use on third-party hardware.
On the one hand, I kind of get the desire to customize Android for use on laptop and desktop PCs, particularly in emerging markets like India. Not only is Android an open source operating system that’s available for free, but it’s also the first computing platform many people become familiar with. A growing number of people pick up their first smartphone before their first computer. Operating systems like PrimeOS make it possible to use the mobile apps they’re already familiar with in a more productivity-based environment.
On the other hand, now that Google is blurring the lines between Chrome OS and Android by allowing you to run Android apps on Chromebooks (and beginning to support GNU/Linux apps), I’m not sure how much demand there will be for third-party solutions like PrimeOS.