While Google's Chrome OS effort is all but stillborn and gaining little traction, Android is powerful where Microsoft is not and it is even giving Apple a run for the money (though clearly not doing much damage to them) with Android. This product may represent a bigger threat to Microsoft's desktop dominance than anything that company has ever faced and this is largely because it is cycling nearly three times the speed that Windows is. This means that while it starts far behind, it is advancing at three times the rate and at the current closing rate it will likely catch up and pass Windows in the second half of the decade.
There are several things standing in the way of this success, from Microsoft Office 2012 and Windows Metro, and from Google, its poor security, poor (though strengthening) intellectual property litigation defense and inability to focus. In short, while I think it could actually beat Microsoft, my expectation is the company will become its own biggest impediment.
Let's explore that this week.
Windows vs. Android
Android is moving up from cell phones and into tablets. With the release of products like the Lenovo IdeaTab S2 and Asus Transformer Prime, it is moving into the notebook space. Windows 8 comes down the other way, starting from its PC base and drifting into products like the Samsung Tablet, which was showcased at MIX (Microsoft's developer conference), and the Lenovo Yoga, which flips the keyboard under the ultra-thin display. What is interesting is that of these products, it is the Lenovo Yoga that appeared to sweep the CES awards and it is a Windows 8 showcase.
The one crippling disadvantage that Windows has always enjoyed is the pain involved in moving to new hardware with a new operating system and the next migration - with many people coming from a product, Windows XP, which is now three generations back - is going to be particularly painful. If a buyer is going to experience a painful migration anyway they are more likely to make a switch and try something new, a behavior that has been helping Apple a great deal of late.