Perhaps the hottest item of many on display at Intel's huge booth at CES 2014 was a relatively non-descript convertible laptop from Asus. The unique selling point for this touchscreen system, dubbed the Transformer Book Duet, is that it not only runs Windows 8.1 but can also switch over to an Android 4.2.2 mode with just a few clicks or taps.
Intel rep Todd Townsend navigated between the two operating systems on a demonstration unit for the crowd that seemed to surround him all day long to get a glance of the bipolar device. A single push of an Instant Switch button or desktop/home screen icon and about a two-second wait is all that's required to move between the two environments.
Both operating systems share an Intel Core i7 processor and 4 GB of RAM to help things go smoothly, which they always did during the demonstration. Asus says there are no virtual systems in place here, giving each OS full access to the Intel processor as well as the ability to pick up where you left off on each platform.
The file systems for each seemed to be segregated by partitions at a glance. We were able to see the Android files from the Windows 8.1 file manager, however.
The other key parts of the Transformer Book Duet include a 13.3-inch 1920 x 1080 HD IPS touchscreen, a front-facing HD camera, 128 GB of SSD storage and a micro SD card slot in the tablet display, as well as a 1 TB hard drive that lives in the keyboard dock. The dock also houses ports for USB, LAN and HDMI.
It's interesting to see a product like this, particularly in the wake of Microsoft's decision to create its own PC and tablet hardware, beginning with the Surface and Surface Pro. When the Surface was first introduced, myself and others were driven to wonder how Microsoft's myriad hardware partners might react. Looks as though Asus sees no reason to fear Microsoft's wrath may be incurred by packaging Windows with Android, and Intel is also happy to put its stamp of approval on such a product.
It's hard to imagine this happening five years ago, when Windows saw no need to compete with its partner OEMs, and the line between tablets and laptops was a little less blurry.
We'll have to wait until later this year when the Duet hits store shelves to see if Windows and Android in one package is really what the masses have been waiting for.