Asustek puts Android netbook on ice for now

The company said it's too busy with other projects to push the Android Eee PC

A day after an Asustek Eee PC running Google's Android operating system was shown at Computex Taipei, top executives from the company said the project will be put on the backburner for now.

The Eee PC with Android is not ready yet because the technology is "not mature," said Jonathan Tsang, vice chairman of Asustek, on the sidelines of a press conference at the show Tuesday.

"For the time being this project is not a priority because our engineering resources are limited," he added.

Qualcomm showed an Eee PC running Android on Monday as part of the company's display of new products with its Snapdragon chips inside.

The netbook, with a 10-inch display, was thinner and lighter than current Asustek Eee PCs that use Intel Atom microprocessors and run Microsoft Windows XP because the Snapdragon chips require fewer cooling components, such as fans.

It also appeared polished, not at all like an early prototype.

Several companies have shown off netbooks with Android software instead of Windows XP at Computex, including Acer and Elitegroup Computer Systems. Android is a smartphone OS based on Linux that is meant to make communications and Web browsing easy, especially on Google sites such as Gmail and Google Maps.

The idea to use Android in netbooks has gained popularity because of these mobility attributes as well as the growing number of companies supporting its development, according to Jim Wong, president of global IT product operations at Acer.

But Asustek shied away from the Android spotlight quickly.

Moments after sharing a news conference stage with Intel executive vice president Sean Maloney and Microsoft corporate vice president, OEM Division, Steven Guggenheimer, the chairman of Asustek, Jonney Shih, demurred when asked about the Android Eee PC.

"Frankly speaking, the first question, I would like to apologize that, if you look at Asus booth we've decided not to display this product," he said.

"I think you may have seen the devices on Qualcomm's booth but actually, I think this is a company decision so far we would not like to show this device. That's what I can tell you so far. I would like to apologize for that."

He declined further comment on the subject.

The majority of netbooks today use Intel Atom microprocessors and Microsoft Windows XP.

When asked about rumors that Asustek faced pressure from Microsoft and Intel over the use of Android and Snapdragon in the Eee PC, Tsang said "no, pressure, none."

Intel spokesman Nick Jacobs said, "our customers are always free to make the choices they want," and declined further comment on "rumors and speculation."

A Microsoft representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

Another Asustek representative suggested that Qualcomm displayed the Android Eee PC without permission.

But Qualcomm vice president of business development Hank Robinson said Asustek approved the use of the device so long as they did not discuss any of its specs other than the Snapdragon chip.

Asked earlier in the day about his thoughts of the Android Eee PC with Snapdragon, Intel's Maloney said his company welcomed the competition in chips because "it will keep us on our toes" and "create more opportunities for consumers. I'm delighted there are lots of other companies coming here and talking about netbooks."

He called Qualcomm "a great company and they've done some great things. They continue to do great things and so I think it's good news all around and we welcome both competing with them and cooperating with them."

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Dan Nystedt and Sumner Lemon

IDG News Service
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