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 optionsfor its products, if at all, according to Marlene Somsak, an HP spokesperson.
“We are studying Android. We want to assess its capabilities,” she toldLinuxInsider.
If HP decides in favor of using Android, it could well become thefirst major PC vendor to use Google’s OS, currently deployed in smartphones.
HP currently sells netbooks that run Windows XP, the Suse Linuxoperating 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.
Android, Google’s open source operating system, is gainingattention from many vendors in the mobile device market. Thisattraction follows Android’s success in the T-Mobile G1 and with othercompanies belonging to the Open Handset Alliance, which is pushing forthe development of Android.
In addition, chipmaker Freescale, which recently began making chipsfor netbooks, plans to expand its offerings to include chipsets designed for Android.
Nvidia is testing it on its Tegra platform; Qualcommhas demonstrated it on its Snapdragon architecture; and Asus has announcedplans to port Android to its netbook range.
Using the sameOS in both smartphones and netbooks would give consumersa common vehicle to share data between PCs and phones.
However, Google officials continue to be tight-lipped about their plans toconvince 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 thatanyone can take the Android platform and add code or download it tocreate a mobile device without restrictions. The Android smartphoneplatform was designed from the beginning to scale downward to featurephones and upward to MID (mobile Internet device) and netbook-style devices. We look forward toseeing what contributions are made and how an open platform spursinnovation, but we have nothing to announce at this time.”
Microsoft’s Windows operating system has had steadycompetition from various Linux distributions in the netbook line.Because Windows Vista is usually too bulky for the limited memoryand storage capacity of many netbook models, Microsoft XP has been thedesignated OS for non-Linux netbooks.
However, Microsoft has said that it is preparing a version of Windows 7 tobe compatible with netbook configurations. Windows 7 is expected tobe released later this year after a strong showing in its betarelease.
Microsoft suggested to LinuxInsider that it did not view HP’sconsideration of the Android OS as a threat to the Windows OS onnetbooks.
“This has long been a competitive space,” Ben Rudolph, senior managerof Microsoft Windows, told LinuxInsider. “We’ve seen Windows on thesePCs in the U.S. go from under 10 percent in unit sales during thefirst half of 2008 to 96 percent as of February 2009, according to thelatest 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 thanWindows return rates. This is a significant additional cost forconsumers and retailers,” Rudolph explained.