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Will $45 Android and Linux PCs Pose Problems for Windows?

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By William Peacock, Esq. on September 04, 2013 12:53 PM

Every time the phrase "post-PC" is uttered (or written) in my presence, I stifle internal laughter. The PC is dead. People are moving to tablets. Blah, blah, blah.

I think to myself: it won't happen. Law firms and corporations can't run on Android or iOS, and even if they could, they wouldn't. It would require a massive hardware changeover, retraining of staff, and a whole new suite of programs (such as a Microsoft Office replacement). The benefits (cheap hardware, little to no viruses or malware) don't outweigh the costs.

Then Windows 8 arrived. Some call it brilliant and visionary, a fresh take on computing that balances support for legacy apps with implementation of an intuitive touch-friendly UI. Others call it an abomination.

Either way, it's going to require retraining, and with the vast adoption of smartphones, users are already becoming used to trying new operating systems, interfaces, and applications.

With that in mind, the term "post-PC" still seems like a stretch for companies and law firms, but post-Windows? That might be a possibility, especially if $45 mini-PCs, like the CuBox-i, proliferate.

Why IT Would Do It

They are cheap, easily replaceable, and software is free or low cost. With cloud computing, most of a user's data is stored online. With the quad core processor in these cheap puppies, they can run a desktop version of Linux (perfectly suitable for a law firm, by the way) or Android.

Android is familiar to end-users with smartphones. Linux has more powerful desktop software. Both are free, or near free. A firm can get users online and working for $45 each. Compare that with the hundreds of dollars spent per PC per user.

Did we mention the little to no malware and less chance of users figuring out how to install odd, system-crashing kitten screensavers?

Why Users Would Tolerate It

For one, because their bosses said so. Also, they'd be especially tolerant of an Android-based box because that is the same system that runs on more than 80 percent of smartphones. Most of them are already used to it.

I've tinkered with Android using a mouse and keyboard. It feels a bit less natural than using a touchscreen (naturally) but it works to near-perfection. My only complaint was that Bluetooth keyboards lag a bit for those of us that type at Usain Bolt-like speeds.

Why Your Mom Likes It

It may not just be companies that are wooed by cheap Android and Linux-based boxes. What does your mother do on a computer? Check email? Read blogs? Send and receive photos? These are all tasks that can be tackled with a smartphone, or in this case, a $45 Android-based desktop PC.

When netbooks came out, the underpowered Windows XP-based machines sold in the millions because (1) they were insanely cheap for the time and (2) they were easy to use because we knew Windows. With Window 8's learning curve, isn't it a bit tempting to try one of these alternatives, especially for less than $100? What will your firm do?

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