Not Quite Android
Many smartphone makers choose to put custom UI skins on Android. Usually, Im not a fan of that. But on laptops, its a necessity. Android isnt made for laptops, so to make it usable with this form factor, things need to change. Which is why Lenovo has introduced things like a custom dock which mimics the Windows Launch Superbar.
Android also needs a keyboard which steps away from the traditional Windows and Linux keyboards, with special buttons for common Android features like apps drawer, multi-tasking, etc.
But the downside of all this is that these are, in the end, cosmetic changesthe limit of what a company can do without moving beyond the core challenges Android faces as a laptop OS.
Apps, Apps, Apps
The big problem for Android is that its apps are not made for use in a laptop or desktop setting, they are made with the intent of being touched. While some of them translate decently to a keyboard+mouse interface, they still dont match up to what you would get on Windows. And this is especially found wanting in the quality of the programs.
No office suite, for example, matches up to what you get in Microsoft Office on Windows or Mac. Kingsoft Office and others are decent, but the mobile versions are not as robust as desktop alternatives. Try working with tables in the word processor or try a spreadsheet file with macros and the limitations of mobile office suites come to the fore.
Then theres the complete lack of support for professional applications. Adobe Photoshop Touch or any other image-editing app on Android doesnt hold a candle to their desktop counterparts.
But perhaps the most damaging thing for Android is that its mobile browsers arent as good as Chrome or Firefox on desktop. By default, these mobile browsers are set to load pages in mobile mode. With a few small hacks, you can set it so that the browser always fetches the desktop version of any website, but what makes Chrome and Firefox so great on desktop are the many extensions and plug-ins that make them a flawless interface to the internet. Without those, we might as well be using Internet Explorer, and thats the same kind of limitation you feel when you use Chrome Mobile or Firefox Mobile on Android.
Bad Multi-tasking, Great Multimedia
The other thing that irks the Android laptop user is the lack of true multi-tasking. While floating windows have bridged the gap to an extent when compared to what youd get on Windows or Linux, its still not as good as the desktop operating systems.
Where Android does score is in its vast Play Store and all the goodies that brings. You have access to the full Google Play Music library of music, the Play Movies library of films and TV shows, and the Play Books library of novels and magazines. As a multimedia device, Android outshines Windows quite easily.
Theres also the added benefit of the Play Store and its collection of great casual games.
What Android Needs To Be A Laptop OS
So the question is, what would Android need to do to make it a great laptop operating system The biggest thing missing, in my opinion, is bringing great desktop apps to this OS through the same Play Store. Just like you install Chrome for smartphones, there should be an option to install Chrome Desktop for the same touchscreen devicesthis app, however, would need to be made for keyboard usage.
Apart from the apps front, a focus on true multi-tasking would be great, but that seems more unlikely. Instead, hardware manufacturers giving more RAM in Android laptops makes more sense, as features like floating windows take the brunt of turning Android into a desktop interface.
Finally, much like there are homescreen replacements for smartphones, it would be great if there were third-party apps or downloadable elements that customised your Android to be used for laptops rather than tabletsi.e. turn the focus from touch-based input to keyboard+mouse input.
As things stand today, however, Android is a long way away from incorporating these features. As such, its not yet ready to be a laptop operating system, so your choices are still limited to Windows, Linux, Mac and Googles other operating system, Chrome OS.