Preston Gralla

Microsoft pulls the plug on Windows-Android PCs. Why is it allowing Windroid phones?

March 14, 2014 12:44 PM EDT

Microsoft can be accused of many things, but consistency is not one of them. It is forcing Asustek to abandon its dual-boot Windows-Android PCs while letting Huawei build a dual-boot Windows-Android phone. Is any logic at play, or just plain weirdness?

The Wall Street Journal reports that Asus is being forced to halt its plans to make a new dual-boot Windows-Android PC as well as stop selling its existing Asus Transformer AiO P1801 and P1802 all-in-one PCs. The new device, the Transformer Book Duet TD300, was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, and is a combination clamshell-tablet machine.

Both Microsoft and Google have put pressure on Asus to kill the hybrids, according to the report. This represents a change of heart for Microsoft, because it hasn't put pressure on Asus not to make dual-boot devices up until now. The Journal reports that an Asus memo says that Microsoft has a "new policy" not to support the devices. It provided no explanation of why that policy is being put in place.

As for Google, it apparently has been unhappy as well. Even though Android is open source, manufacturers still need to get Google's approval to do things such as link to the Google Play app store, so Google can easily kill the device by now allowing acces to Google Play. As to why Google is not happy with the plan, that's a bit of a mystery, and Google isn't talking. Neither is Microsoft.

Most curious about this is that Microsoft is embracing dual-boot Windows Phone-Android phones. Huawei is making a dual-boot Windows Phone-Android device to be sold in the U.S. within six months, and Microsoft has signed a deal to allow two Indian phone manufacturers to make and sell Windows Phone-Android handsets.

Why would Microsoft go all in with Android on Windows Phone, but balk on PCs? The reason is likely this: Microsoft still owns the PC market, but is far behind on smartphones. So allowing dual-booting on a smartphone can help Microsoft by exposing Windows Phone to a larger market. Allowing it on a PC can hurt, because it might get people used to Android, and they could end up abandoning Windows for Android.

It's true that Microsoft could use help on tablets, and so a dual-boot Android-Windows machine could help there. But there's no logical way it can ban them on more traditional PCs and allow them on tablets, especially because so many devices, like the Transformer Book Duet TD300, are hybrids that are both tablet and laptop.

So expect Microsoft to continue with what on the surface seems to be an inconsistent strategy. But don't be surprised if Google fights back and puts the kibosh on dual-boot Windows Phone-Android smartphones.