Google Android to appear on Asus and HP Netbooks

Netbook Revolution Trigger – Asus EEE PC – here with 1GB of RAM, 160GB HDD, 1.6GHz Atom CPU

There is an autodealer near Buffalo NY who fills the TV airwaves with the usual attention getting claptrap –

This is HUGE, HUGE!!!! COME ON DOWN NOW for HUGE DEALS…”

Well I never thought I would resort to such low lying attention getting but this Google Android OS on Netbooks announcement is HUGE!!!!. Here are a few of the media who have picked up on the story:

APCMag – spells out significance adds Ovum and Asus insights

Business Week – where I first saw the story on the Business Exchange best of list

Channel Web – gives supplier side credence to the story

CNET – gives a very good rundown of the technical + business implications

Engadget – shows the gadget gizmo world sees the light

theRegister – the Brits are a bit late but as always the humor is good

Wall Street Journal – broke the story, now you have to pay to play

Now why is this announcement huge? For 6 reasons:

1)Microsoft finally suffers for its bloated OS software. Vista has outrun even Moore’s law  which predicts a doubling in speed and memory capacity of PC’s every 16-20 months.  But Vista requires at least 3-4GB of memory in order to run smoothly with full features. But even with 4GB of memory Vista runs 20-40% slower than Windows XP on identically the same machine(except that max memory allowed with Windows XP is 3GB). In sum for memory bloat and speed of performance Vista cannot match Windows XP. And so it has been rejected on Netbooks.

2)Instead, Microsoft resurrected Windows XP and “allows” a stripped down version to be sold on popular Netbooks from Asus, Dell and HP among others. But Windows XP on a Netbook effectively adds nearly $100 to a $299 price.

3)Even more important, because Windows XP is closed and proprietary, as usual the Netbook vendors are beholden to Microsoft to add the software and device support features they want.

4)Enter Google Android which is an Open Source Linux variant with very advanced  GUI touch screen features and the ability to run on mobile phones, embedded devices, as well as Netbooks. Android is free and supported by Google, the new most trusted name in PC computing. Android already has a mobile App library like Apple. It is Open Source so that vendors like Asus, Dell, HP can do their own thing in the software+hardware if they so choose – no waiting for Google(or Microsoft).

5)Netbooks, which represent the convergence of  laptops  and smartphones, will replace smartphones and laptops as the consumer PCphone device of choice – see Wired article here.

6)Google Android is not alone. Ubuntu Netbook  Remix has a number of months of development behind it for the same target market. And Ubuntu and Xandros are by far the most popular and sophisticated of the PC Linux versions. So if Asus, Dell, and HP can’t find a fit with Android they have some excellent Open Source Linux  alternatives. Finally Nokia is making its Symbian OS more open as well.

Netbooks as the PCphone

I predict that Netbooks will have 40%++ of laptop sales as of last quarter 2010. They will also have 20% of Smartphone sales for the next last quarter, 2011. Why ? Because a Netbook weighs less than 2.5 pounds, has a battery life of 4-8 hours now and 10-16 by 2010. It can run a full and free suite of office apps(word processing, spreadsheet, graphis, and presentation software),  provide cloud and Web connectivity with a super browser plus other connectivity apps – all with a full QWERTY keyboard and 10 inch diagonal touch screen.

By 2010 the Netbook vendors will have added a lot of special phone and GPS apps. Imagine the following – you are at  an airport waiting for a flight listening through Bluetooth ear phones to stereo music while completing a memo in email. The phone beeps in the corner of the screen and you answer it with a tap. You do not want to speak so you tap the screen again and the phone app indicates to the caller that you will be responding by text message replying. You start typing a response to the user and tap the screen again when you are ready – the machine translates the text to a spoken message(your choice of “star” voices) returned to your caller. They ask where you want to stay in the City. So you bring up Google Maps, find some of the hotels near where you want to be, checkmark 3 and type the message+Map URL to have the caller check availability and get back to you. Meanwhile another call comes through and you have it translated into text, tap on the second call stream and tap out the message “Make it so” and tap and you are done with that FYI call. Meantime your first caller has triggered a browser app that shows on your Netbook the spreadsheet results that you were just talking about. Both you and the caller make adjustments to various values in the spreadsheet as you discuss the situation and look at some of the what-if scenarios……

Sound a little far fetched? All of these capabilities are doable right now with standalone apps from Zoho, Google, DimDim, and others. What the Netbook vendors will bring to the table is the Bluetooth  and other Netbook hardware and software to make it happen all together. They will be able to do this in a hurry because they won’t have to wait on Microsoft (or its designated 3rd party vendors). They can a)do it themselves or b)do it cooperatively with some savvy Linux or Java  vendors. And in the embedded and communication worlds there are a surprising number of those. Finally take a look at these articles in Wired on the influence of Netbooks and theRegister on the current popularity of Netbooks.

Summary

Given the competitive and price pressures on  both Smartphone and Netbookvendors, a move like this to Linux appears to be  essential. Meanwhile Microsoft is hamstrung because of a number of factors:

1)Vista is very slow+bloated and XP is old and to be abandoned- they make poor offferings on this basis alone;

2)Microsoft recently rejected a rewrite of their falling-behind Windows Mobile OS;

3)All of Microsoft’s offerings have the key disadvantages of being proprietary and expensive;

4)Microsoft is currently absorbed in rewriting Vista as Windows 7 and Azure as a Web capable version of Windows Server 2008;

5)Microsoft has been able to discipline and bend  vendors to its marketing will and prices by having those hardware vendors  beholden to proprietary Windows and Redmonds schedule of features and extensions.  I suspect the hardware vendors cannot afford this much longer.

So will the Netbook OS be the Tipping Point that sees major hardware vendors adopting a new OS?  Until I see powerful counter arguments, I say aye aye sir.