Google designed the Pixel C hardware for productivity, but the Android software running on it didn’t seem to get the memo. Excellent for smartphones, tablets, and even TVs, “vanilla” Android has not scaled well to PC-like use cases. Companies like Jide, not to mention some crowdfunded projects, have dared to go where Google still refuses to venture. One such attempt is Phoenix OS, which, like Remix OS, spins Android into a more traditional desktop form. Now, it seems that Phoenix has gained a major backer, with Alcatel showing off the OS running on its equally odd Xess “tablet”.
Alcatel refuses to categorize the Xess, first revealed at IFA 2015 and apparently pronounced “access”, with the traditional labels of “tablet” or even “all-in-one PC”. Instead, it prefers the more wordy “consumer electronics for the whole family. In practice, however, it is really both. At MWC 2016, the company showed off the device once again, but with an additional interesting information: the OS running on it.
Alcatel did mention that the Xess would be using Android but never really said anything beyond that. The presumption would be it would the same Android running on most tablets, stretched to 17 inches. That might have been true a few months ago, but the demo version it had this week actually run a specific flavor. Phoenix OS shares many similarities with Remix OS, like being developed in the same country. And like Jide’s software, Phoenix OS skins and modifies Android to behave more like a traditional desktop OS, with a taskbar, multiple floating windows, the works.
Phoenix OS seems to be younger than Remix OS and, as such, has had less real-world testing. Desktop-like Android experiences do seem to be getting increased coverage recently, and it will interesting to see how far Phoenix OS will go.
The unique OS does seem to be a good match for a strange device. While the Xess does bear more or less regular hardware, like a huge 17.3-inch Full HD touchscreen, a MediaTek MT8783 CPU, 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and a hulking 10,000 mAh battery, the form it comes in is anything but traditional. It is more portable than an all-in-one and even comes with a carrying handle that folds out to a stand. At the same time, it’s too huge to use as a conventional tablet. The Xess seems to have a stylus as well, which could turn it into a nice graphics tablet, depending on the type of stylus used.
The closest device in its class wold be Samsung’s Galaxy View, which is already in the market and hasn’t exactly put that market on fire. Alcatel plans to launch the Xess in the US next quarter, followed by Europe a few months later. Price details are still unknown.