ASUS to Eee Android?
Taiwanese computer maker ASUS — which ostensibly launched the netbook craze in 2007 with its EeePC — appears to be looking to hop on another craze with the low-cost lightweight laptop. According to reports, the company is in high gear developing a new netbook which will run on, of all things, the Android mobile phone platform.
Samson Hu, Eee chief for ASUS, told Bloomberg News in an interview last week that company engineers are hard at work developing a netbook around Google's mobile operating system, though a decision won't be made on whether to market the device until after it finishes development. Hu said that could be as early as the end of this year, though, describing Android as "a very lean and open platform." Analysts were quick to jump on the news, declaring that an Android netbook could give Windows a run for its money, returning Linux to the dominant position it held with the low-cost devices before Windows seized a Gartner-estimated 80% of the market.
While Microsoft execs remain confident, despite cutting 5,000 last month alone, experts say Android's lighter load and Google heritage may be just what netbooks are in need of. Having been developed for mobile phones, Android requires far fewer resources to get its job done, meaning lighter — and potentially, less expensive — hardware along with faster boot and response times. Though intended primarily for mobile devices, Google says the capacity to expand to netbooks has always been part of the plan.
Being based on Linux, of course, won't hurt either, as the Open Source operating system is well known for scaling remarkably well. Indeed, scaling may well be the key to Android's success in the netbook market. While the resources available on a netbook are dramatically smaller than the machines Windows was designed for, they will prove far greater than those available on Android's native mobile phones, giving the operating system the opportunity to grow into, rather than slim down for, its new home. That's not to discount ASUS, of course — the company certainly knows the netbook market, having exploded onto the scene and taken consumers by storm with the Eee in 2007.
The Eee also took Linux Journal by storm. Linux Journal's own netbook expert Jes Hall, shared her thoughts on the device in March 2008, followed by a thorough hacking in April. Not to be outdone, Linux Journal Associate Editor & LinuxJournal.com Gadget Guy Shawn Powers offered his review of the miniature machine here on LinuxJournal.com, just in time for the Christmas rush 2007 — along with a bit of his trademark humor, at Ms. Hall's expense. Rounding it all out, both appeared on Linux Journal Live! in October to trade thoughts and answer questions. Linux Journal readers were apparently taken too, as the device beat out the competition to be declared Favorite Linux Laptop in the 2008 Linux Journal Readers Choice Awards.
If netbooks continue on their current path — and estimates place netbook demand at near double its 2008 level — it may not be long before Android is not only in pockets and purses, but also briefcases and backpacks, near you.