The tablet market is a funny – and fickle – one, especially where Android devices are concerned. After Google’s well-publicised exit from the market over the weekend, here we are with the second tablet-based story of the day. Hello, Microsoft.
Microsoft a few years and generations into its Surface tables and laptops now, and they’re well-regarded hardware that often sit atop the pile of Windows machines. More recently, Microsoft is said to be looking to bring the line down-market to take a chunk out of Google’s Chromebook space.
Chromebooks generally run on a slightly less powerful hardware platform, so on Microsoft’s side that means not running “full” Windows but a cut-down “Windows Core OS” that allows developers and manufacturers to plug in binary code to customise Windows on their device.
The more interesting part is Forbes reporting that this new Surface will run Android apps. This information has been given to Forbes by another party, IHS Markit, citing “supply chain sources”.
Chromebooks these days run Android apps (and anything via containers, supposedly), and given the positioning of this new device against the Chromebook market, it would make sense that Microsoft’s new offering extends back the other way. It sounds like Windows Core OS could offer a way to do this.
However, it’s mentioned in the same sentence as Apple’s “iCloud services” (which already runs on Windows anyway), so it’s possible that this might actually be referring to Microsoft’s Android phone companion app (sending messages and photos between PC and Android, soon with the ability to mirror apps on the PC) rather than actually running Android apps on the Surface device itself.
Mind you, it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility. You’ve been able to run Android apps on PCs for years through solutions like BlueStacks, and some device manufacturers have had Android apps running sandboxed in a compatibility layer (bringing its own problems and limitations) on their own native operating systems as well.
Microsoft’s been on a tear embracing open source for a while now too (Windows has a bash shell now, and Edge is about to go full Chromium), so it’s just possible that they’re actually adding such compatibility to their OS. Time will tell.
As for hardware, Microsoft’s new Surface is said to be “foldable” but that seems more likely to be a dual-display folding device rather than an actual flexible finding display. Forbes days two 9-inch screens with a 4:3 aspect ratio are likely. It’s also unlikely to appear before next year.