Acer announced June 1 that it would produce a mininotebook, or netbook, that runs the Google Android mobile operating system. The devices will ship in the third quarter of 2009, and seem to herald the long-predicted jump by Android from smartphones to netbooks.
However, even as it ports Android onto netbooks, Acer will continue to provide Microsoft Windows on its devices.
"Competition in the marketplace is good and people have the right to choose software that is best for them," Amelia Agrawal, a Singapore-based Microsoft spokesperson, said in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg. "Microsoft remains confident that people will keep buying Windows, as evidenced by the robust Windows growth on small notebook PCs."
Analyst reports have shown the percentage of Windows-equipped netbooks jumping from under 10 percent of the market in the first half of 2008 to 96 percent in February 2009. However, with research company IDC estimating that netbook shipments will grow from 11.4 million in 2008 to 22 million in 2009, there remains a potentially massive growth market for any operating system competing in the space.
"The vast majority of netbooks on the market today are selling with Windows XP. A lot of that has to do with peoples' familiarity with the system and application compatibility," John Spooner, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said in an interview. "Can Android offer these capabilities? Yes-you can use Gmail, Google Docs and other applications that people are familiar with. So the idea of Android on a netbook is compelling."
At the same time, porting the open-source Android onto a netbook could potentially lower the device's already-low price even further by subtracting the markup that comes with having a Microsoft system preinstalled, making the operating system additionally tempting to consumers.
"I don't think Android is going to have 50 percent market share next year, but it could do well for users who are price-sensitive," Spooner said.
In addition to netbooks, Android has been making gains in the smartphone market, with Andy Rubin, Google's senior director for mobile platforms, predicting at the Google I/O Developer Conference in San Francisco on May 28 that about 18 to 20 phones by eight or nine separate manufacturers would come with Android OS installed on them by the end of 2009.
Smartphone manufacturers will be able to sign distribution deals with Google to preinstall phones with Google Apps and other options. Rubin declined to name which phone makers would be involved in producing Android-equipped phones.