Hewlett-Packard confirmed Tuesday it is considering using Google's Android operating system in its netbooks, a move that could potentially cut netbook costs as well as challenge the dominant position of Microsoft's Windows operating system.
"We are indeed studying it," said Marlene Somsak, director, worldwide media relations for Hewlett-Packard's Personal System Group. "As the world's leading computer company, we want to understand all the OS choices in the marketplace that may be used by competitors or potentially even deployed by us to meet customer needs. So we're looking into Android's capabilities for potential use in the computer and communications industries.
"If you ask if, how or when HP might introduce any Android-enabled platforms, you can anticipate our answer: We don't speculate on products that may or may not be under way," Somsak added.
The adoption of Android, a free, open source operating system, would promise to bring down netbook costs at a time when IT departments are coming under pressure to reduce spending because of difficult economic conditions.
A Google spokesperson would not comment directly on HP's interest in Android, but said the OS would work well with netbooks. "The Android smartphone platform was designed from the beginning to scale downward to feature phones and upward to MID and netbook-style devices," the spokesperson said. "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."
The story was first reported Tuesday when The Wall Street Journal quoted Satjiv Chahil, a vice president of HP's PC division, as saying the company was studying the Google software. "We want to assess the capability Android may have for the computer and communications industries, and so we are studying it," Chahil said.
Android is used on smartphones such as HTC's G1, but is being designed to support different types of devices. Chipmaker Freescale, which recently began making chips for netbooks, plans to expand its offering to include chipsets for Android, Reuters reported.
Microsoft has been using Windows XP OS on netbooks, and will sell a version of its forthcoming Windows 7 operating system specially tailored for netbooks. As the growing netbook market continues to gain attention and traction, solution providers are looking for ways to work these small notebooks into corporate use. Analysts estimate that globally shipments of netbooks will be between 20 million and 30 million units in 2009, according to Reuters.
One HP partner who sells netbooks among other HP products said he was surprised but intrigued with the idea of having Android in netbooks.
"They are probably exploring all their avenues and maybe keeping Microsoft a little honest, if you know what I'm saying," said Rick Chernick, president and CEO of Green Bay, Wis.-based Camera Corner/Connecting Point. "They are doing the things we would expect them to do. They are looking at new ways to save money. We are starting to get more interest in netbooks in education and even in corporations, as people try to bring costs down."
If true, an Android-based netbook would be a serious challenge for Microsoft, Tim Harmon, Forrester senior analyst, said. "I would say Microsoft can't be really happy about it. HP has a pretty close relationship with Microsoft and this would strain relations."