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HP Interviews Android for Netbook Position

HP Interviews Android for Netbook Position

HP says it's looking into using the Android mobile platform as an out-of-the-box operating system for future netbooks. Google's Android platform can currently be found in T-Mobile's G1 smartphone, but Google says it was designed to scale up to a small computer configuration. However, HP says it's not committing to anything with Android just yet.

By Jack M. Germain LinuxInsider ECT News Network
04/01/09 1:52 PM PT

HP has confirmed it is considering Google's Android operating system for use in upcoming netbook computers.

However, the company has not set a time line for deciding whether to offer Android exclusively or as one of several OS options for its products, if at all, according to Marlene Somsak, an HP spokesperson.

"We are studying Android. We want to assess its capabilities," she told LinuxInsider.

If HP decides in favor of using Android, it could well become the first major PC vendor to use Google's OS, currently deployed in smartphones.

Possible Choices

HP currently sells netbooks that run Windows XP, the Suse Linux operating system, and its own home-grown Linux version, MIE (Mobile Internet Experience).

HP considers the availability of Android an important factor. It wants as many options as possible in order to offer more selection to the consumer, said Somsak.

"We have a number of customers who really like using Linux," she said.

About Android

Android, Google's open source operating system, is gaining attention from many vendors in the mobile device market. This attraction follows Android's success in the T-Mobile G1 and with other companies belonging to the Open Handset Alliance, which is pushing for the development of Android.

In addition, chipmaker Freescale, which recently began making chips for netbooks, plans to expand its offerings to include chipsets designed for Android.

Nvidia is testing it on its Tegra platform; Qualcomm has demonstrated it on its Snapdragon architecture; and Asus has announced plans to port Android to its netbook range.

Using the same OS in both smartphones and netbooks would give consumers a common vehicle to share data between PCs and phones.

However, Google officials continue to be tight-lipped about their plans to convince PC makers to ship their netbooks with Android.

"Android is a free, open source mobile platform," said Google in a statement supplied by spokesperson Katie Watson. "This means that anyone can take the Android platform and add code or download it to create a mobile device without restrictions. The Android smartphone platform was designed from the beginning to scale downward to feature phones and upward to MID (mobile Internet device) and netbook-style devices. We look forward to seeing what contributions are made and how an open platform spurs innovation, but we have nothing to announce at this time."

Microsoft Waiting

Microsoft's Windows operating system has had steady competition from various Linux distributions in the netbook line. Because Windows Vista is usually too bulky for the limited memory and storage capacity of many netbook models, Microsoft XP has been the designated OS for non-Linux netbooks.

However, Microsoft has said that it is preparing a version of Windows 7 to be compatible with netbook configurations. Windows 7 is expected to be released later this year after a strong showing in its beta release.

Microsoft suggested to LinuxInsider that it did not view HP's consideration of the Android OS as a threat to the Windows OS on netbooks.

"This has long been a competitive space," Ben Rudolph, senior manager of Microsoft Windows, told LinuxInsider. "We've seen Windows on these PCs in the U.S. go from under 10 percent in unit sales during the first half of 2008 to 96 percent as of February 2009, according to the latest NPD Retail Tracking Service data,"

Microsoft remains confident that Windows' out-of-the-box functionality will ensure its continuing popularity in netbooks, he said.

"The return rates for Linux machines are up to four times higher than Windows return rates. This is a significant additional cost for consumers and retailers," Rudolph explained.


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