Rumours are spreading that Google is in talks with leading netbook producers to offer a version of Android in anticipation of competing with Microsoft's own Windows 7, an operating system designed to be flexible enough to target everything from the basic netbook market to high-end gaming PCs.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that HP and others are working with Google to develop netbooks starring Android.
Claims that Google would be getting into the operating systems business go back at least three years, but the current rumours could well prove to be true. Android is well developed, some key players appear to be in place, and the Google name resonates more strongly with the public. It could even mean a serious challenge to Microsoft's mindshare.
The original ASUS offerings in the market provided an XP-themed version of Linux, Firefox, and OpenOffice.org, and so gave consumers the basics they needed to get what most of them needed to get done. Microsoft fought back with a modified (and cheaper) version of XP to appeal to those comfortable with that OS. However, while such an offering has proved popular on netbooks, some consumers have seen the true costs of going with the familiar: in particular, no office software installed by default.
Netbooks are the closest things to Internet "appliances", doing all the basic things most consumers expect from their computers. Early ASUS offerings with modified versions of Xandros Linux have proved popular, particularly among middle-aged women in South Korea and elsewhere (and, of course, among other demographics). Ubuntu has developed their "Netbook Remix" to target the same market. But the Google name counts for a lot.
Google is a company that made its fortune partly on its use of Linux servers, and the power of the brand still serves to instill consumers with trust, even though privacy issues have arisen in the media over the past few years. "To google" is, for many, computer-speak for "to search". If Google does in fact get some sort of purchase out of Android, it could be the thin end of the wedge in a longer-term strategy to overthrow Microsoft's control of the desktop. If they time things right, then they could well be the first past the post, beating Microsoft's Windows 7 to a key developing market and positioning themselves to take on Microsoft in the other markets it has long dominated.