While PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard and Acer have said they are looking to build netbooks that use Google’s Android operating system, a Chinese company says it plans in the next three months to release a mininotebook that uses the Android OS.
Guangzhou Skytone Transmission Technologies plans to release a netbook later in 2009 called the Alpha 680, which uses Google’s Android operating system and an ARM processor and costs about $250, according to published reports.
If true, this netbook would show that Android is destined for more than just smartphones, and that OEMs are planning to offer users a wide range of different devices built around the operating system.
The news of the Skytone Alpha 680 netbook was first reported in Computerworld.
So far, Android has been confined to smartphones and only those handset devices that are on the T-mobile network. On April 27, Samsung added to the number of handsets using Android and announced another smartphone called the I7500.
When Google announced its quarterly results earlier in April, CEO Eric Schmidt said the search engine giant was expecting Android to make a big splash in 2009 and challenge other operating systems in the marketplace.
Schmidt’s comments came just a few days after a Microsoft employee wrote in a blog that more than 90 percent of netbooks run Windows XP, although it appears that the Microsoft executive was only referring to netbooks used within the United States.
Whether Android is ready to dislodge Windows from the mininotebook market is yet to be seen. At a recent event held to launch a new line of laptops, Acer executives confirmed that they had looked at the Linux-based Android operating system but said the OS was not ready for the netbook or notebook market at this time.
That’s not to say OEMs aren’t interested. HP stated that it has begun experimenting with Android. T-Mobile is also looking to design devices that use Android.
For the $250 asking price, Skytone’s Alpha 680 offers users an ARM processor at 533MHz, a 7-inch screen, 128MB of DDR2 (double data rate 2) main memory and a 1GB solid state drive, according to Tom’s Hardware. The netbook reportedly weighs about 1.5 pounds.
Since the netbook uses an ARM processor, it is likely to resemble an MID (mobile Internet device) more than a larger notebook computer, which means that the device is probably limited in the type of applications it can run. The different reports on the Skytone device did not indicate whether the company has an interest in using an Intel Atom processor in future models, or even an x86 Via chip.
Earlier in 2009, Freescale Semiconductor announced that it plans to offer platforms that use an ARM processor in a series of netbooks that act more like MIDs than laptops. Freescale is also interested in offering devices that use Android.