HP may offer Android in netbooks over Windows

Some analysts wonder if Google's phone OS is up to the job, however

Hewlett-Packard confirmed Tuesday that it is testing Google's Android operating system as a possible alternative to Windows in some of its netbook computers.

Analysts said the move would allow HP to develop a low-cost netbook optimized for wireless networks that provides access to Web-based services such as Google Docs, but others questioned whether the Google software is ready for such a task.

"Right now Android is barely finished for phones," said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis. While it works well enough for T-Mobile's G1 smartphone, the software was released only last year and "the UI still feels half-finished," he said.

HP stressed that it was still only testing Android, an OS based on the open-source Linux kernel. It has assigned engineers to the task but has made no decision yet whether to offer Android in products, said HP spokeswoman Marlene Somsak. The news was first reported earlier Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal.

"We want to assess the capability it will have for the computing and communications industry," Somsak said. "We remain open to considering various OS options."

Netbooks are small, low-cost computers that are designed primarily for browsing the Web and doing basic computing tasks. The category has proved popular -- about 10 million netbooks shipped in 2008 and the number is expected to double this year, according to IDC.

Android was designed for mobile phones but has been seen by some others besides HP as a potential OS for netbooks. Some enthusiasts have been testing Android on netbooks such as Asustek's Eee PC, and chip makers such as Qualcomm and Freescale hope to bring Android to netbooks running on their Arm-based chips.

HP may have in mind a netbook optimized for use with Web-based services such as the Google Docs hosted applications suite and Google's online storage service, said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

The fact that notebooks are designed to provide quick access to online services, often over wireless networks, makes them in some ways like oversized smartphones.

There are also no license fees for Android, which could allow hardware makers to offer lower-priced computers than those running Windows. However, consumers have been willing to pay extra in the past for netbooks running Windows, analysts noted.

HP already offers some PCs with a choice of Linux or Windows, and introducing another OS choice would come with some risk, said David Daoud, a research manager at IDC. Some end-users don't like Linux because they are unfamiliar with it, he said.

"We've seen a number of netbooks returned as a result of the Linux OS. Consumers are used to the Microsoft Windows world," Daoud said. Linux adoption remains weak on client computers, especially in mature markets like the U.S. and Western Europe, he noted.

Still, there may be an upside for Android if HP were to make it work in netbooks. HP's heft as the world's largest PC maker would widen Android's use, Daoud said. It could see success in emerging markets like India and China, where Linux adoption is growing.

But HP would need to deliver a consumer-friendly product that makes Linux easier to use in PCs, Daoud said.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Androidnetbook

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah and Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?