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Is Android On Netbooks Microsoft's Worst Nightmare?

Microsoft enjoys a commanding share of the netbook operating system market, but that could change in a hurry if Google starts making deals with OEMs to get its Android smartphone OS onto netbooks.

Although many early netbooks shipped with Linux, Microsoft has since slashed the price of Windows XP Home -- the version that most commonly ships with netbooks -- and taken a commanding share of the netbook OS market. The fact that many netbook buyers are unfamiliar with the various Linux distributions that ship with netbooks also has hampered adoption.

But if Google starts getting its Linux-based Android onto netbooks, these fears could evaporate and Microsoft could start to see its share of the market dwindle, solution providers said.

"Android-based netbooks would start tapping into the Google 'cool factor,' and more people would be exposed to a brand name in which they've already developed trust," said Bernard Golden, CEO of Hyperstratus, a San Carlos, Calif.-based solution provider.

Google obviously has the financial resources to bring its big plans for Android to fruition. And given that Microsoft's own Windows on netbooks strategy is still somewhat nebulous, the time is right for Google to get Android into the netbook market, according to Golden.

"I wouldn't say netbooks are a greenfield situation, but there is an opportunity here for Google," Golden said.

A Google spokesperson earlier this week declined to comment on whether it's working with netbook OEMs on Android, but did note that Android is designed to run well on netbook-like devices.

Andy Kretzer, director of sales and marketing at Bold Data Technology, a Fremont, Calif.-based system builder, says the potential looming arrival of Android in the netbook market has to be a major source of concern for Microsoft.

"Hardware costs have been going down every year, but Microsoft's software prices have remained fairly stable, and if Android offers a cheaper option for netbooks, I think people are definitely going to start paying more attention to it," Kretzer said.

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