Most of the bestselling laptops on Amazon’s computer bestseller list are so-called netbooks, computers which have little memory, are highly compact and more affordable than traditional laptops. Lighter and smaller, they’re largely for mobility and internet use.
Their appearance and popularity are are consistent with trends toward “cloud computing” (e.g., Google Apps) and mobile internet access (i.e., iPhone/Android). Many of these computers run the Microsoft XP OS but many run Linux. Now it appears Android is eying this market as well, according to a report appearing in VentureBeat, which predicts an Android OS netbook by 2010.
Assuming it’s true this marks an interesting development for the open-source OS. Android’s creators have always seen it as a broader platform than for just smartphones. Back when the Open Handset Alliance was announced and Android formally launched in November 2007 there were allusions to non-phone uses of Android. As I said at the time of the original post:
On the conference call held this morning . . . the other thing that I found interesting was a throwaway reference to devices and uses of Android that haven’t yet been contemplated. Schmidt, and I believe Rubin, suggested that the platform could be used in ways that have little to do with mobile phones. That’s an intriguing scenario: What would those devices and uses be? I’m sure there are some thoughts in the minds of some people at the Googleplex or on a whiteboard somewhere . . .
Netbooks is one answer.
Roughly 13 years ago Oracle’s mercurial CEO Larry Ellison championed the idea of a low-cost PC or PDA (<$500) that would be used chiefly to access the internet and would have little software on machine itself. He was taking aim at rival Microsoft in pushing the notion. Ellison’s vision has now been realized with the advent of netbooks, whose popularity will continue to exert downward price pressure on conventional laptops (now outselling desktop PCs).
Analysts and press have gotten endless mileage out of the Google vs. Microsoft storyline, which has become much more real with the development of Android as a direct competitor to Windows Mobile and the release of Google’s browser Chrome. One “unnamed HTC executive” recently was quoted saying that Android was adversely affecting Windows Mobile sales:
The HTC executive has also admitted that the new Google offering is hurting sales of Windows Mobile devices of which HTC are the biggest maker in the world.
For the time being, Microsoft has nothing to fear from Android on netbooks. However, longer term what this represents is more OS diversification that may contribute to erosion of Microsoft’s hold on the PC market.