Google Watchers Strike Down Google Netbook Notion

Google Watch readers are surprisingly skeptical about the notion that Google will create a version of the Android mobile operating system for netbooks. But let us recall how Google's Android creators have said publicly that they expect Android to appear in devices other than mobile smartphones. Google has

Google Watch readers are surprisingly skeptical about the notion that Google will create a version of the Android mobile operating system for netbooks.

But let us recall how Google's Android creators have said publicly that they expect Android to appear in devices other than mobile smartphones. Google has been anything but generous about its future plans for Android, but the belief is that Android will soon appear on set-top boxes, TVs and various other computing form factors.

Now, I've already said I agreed with many who believe an Android netbook isn't farfetched. Linux distributions such as Xandros and Ubuntu have proliferated on netbooks, causing some folks to opine that 2009 could be the year we see a crack in Microsoft's Windows hegemony.

Well, if Xandros and Ubuntu can make it on netbooks, why can't Android, as I asked Friday? Google Watchers have answered the call, doubting the appearance of Android on netbooks anytime soon. Performance and other limitations are the reasons, as Mike Jones rings in with this sage comment:

"I'm very much looking forward to replacing my Symbian phone with an Android phone. But on netbooks, people want full browsers, word processing, and productivity applications. These exist and work great on Ubuntu; Android just doesn't have them. Furthermore, applications need to be designed very differently for netbook screens/keyboards and phones. What might make sense is to enable running Android apps on top of Ubuntu and other Linux distributions, kind of like applets. So, Android might become an add-on to desktop and netbook Linux versions, but it won't replace it."

Nobody is saying Android will replace any Linux operating system for netbooks or anything else. The whole point of Linux is that all distributions have a fair shot at making it. If Android satisfies core requirements for operating systems, it will sell just like Ubuntu, Xandros and anything else. But, as TmoBin notes, Android has a ways to go before it gets there for PCs or laptops:

"I would not want Android on a PC/Netbook. Android is designed for devices with much less processing power, graphics enhancements, and slower disk read speed; Not to mention such limited RAM. If it's "linux-based", i would just go with linux. As mentioned previously, running Android Apps on an emulator on Linux would probably work 10x better, although i don't know why you would want to. Isn't that like running Windows Mobile over Windows Vista."

Well put, and that's probably great advice for the Android team. In fact, I have no doubt Google recognizes this, and I'm positive they're working on more robust iterations for devices that require better speed and performance. Doubters persist though, as John says:

"There's no way I'm using a browser for an OS anytime soon, or Android on anything other than a phone until they can do with it what can be done with OS X, Ubuntu or Windows. However, on the phone side, Android has the most current potential IMO and if/when I get a new phone, I'll be looking at one."

Herb adds another nail to the Android-on-netbook coffin: "Android is far too alpha to be taken seriously. It's barely an interesting brick (first gen). One year is a decade in computer years, but 2009 for gBooks would be a no go unless they were given away or $99."

Yet despite the limitations of Android, others are hopeful for Android netbooks. Evan Schoepke writes:

"Well, I for one see google going after the netbook market hard. I foresee double touch screen netbooks with android capability to be in the works soon (maybe even gesture enabled?) What hasn't google done, and given enough time, what hasn't google done well. Every IT person out there would be happy to see more linux penetration. One word, adaptability. Just look at what developers have done for android thus far and it's not even been unlocked for a year yet."

Double touch-screen netbooks with Android?! OK, Evan is overly bullish but I like his can-do attitude. Let's put this into perspective; it's too early for such gadgets, but it's where Android is heading in a few years. Google has big plans for Android's future.

In the meantime, I'll settle for a more powerful flavor of Android powering normal netbooks like the Asus EEE PC, or HP and Dell minis. I expect that to be the case in 2009, along with Android on a dozen other smartphones.

So, what about the Chrome/Android netbook bundle? Eric Sermon weighs in:

"I love Google, but everyone I know (myself included) has installed Google's Chrome browser only to uninstall it after a day or so. It's so lame. It's like a browser designed for preschoolers. We're all sticking with Firefox until Chrome is redesigned. Maybe then we'll give it another try. Does anyone really need to see thumbnail images of the web sites they visit most often? Ridiculous."

Ouch. I disagree. For a first shot at a browser, Chrome isn't bad at all. And the speed! I haven't seen the likes of it. The V8 JavaScript engine alone is enough to keep me using it. I still use Firefox, too, for now, mostly because I'm so comfortable with it. Chrome needs more time in the oven before I switch for good, but will it get the chance?

Eric Blair, who claims he is a Googler commenting from "inside," says Chrome is currently headed for disaster because it hasn't caught on.

"They're now saying 'marketing' will revive it--we never used to advertise Google products, but now Chrome ads are being built into every toolbar, every Google page, every interaction. Getting tiresome," Blair writes.

If you believe Blair, then we bloggers who love Chrome will see the new browser die a slow death for lack of adoption, which would be a rare failure on Google's part. That would be huge, meaning search must remain Google's window to the Web. That won't be enough to challenge Microsoft Windows.

Indeed, I have no doubt that if Google fails to port Android to computers and Chrome doesn't gain more traction, Google's chances of cracking the Windows hegemony will fail. But you have to give both Android and Chrome time. Nothing in computing gets decided in a year's time, and both Android and Chrome have only been available for a few months.

It's way too early to call this fight. Agree? Disagree? Tell me why.