HP might have found a way to cut the cost of netbooks even further: use Google's Android operating system with its Mini-Note laptops instead of Microsoft Windows.
Cutting costs is crucial for computer manufacturers and the buying public, which explains the flourishing popularity of netbooks and budget mini laptops. And HP's switch to Google Android could get the price even lower.
HP's Mini-Note laptops and the Google Android operating system are a perfect combination, for three reasons.
Microsoft slaps hefty licensing fees on the use of its Windows OS, whereas Google charges no such fee for Android. The Linux-based Android could save HP, and other netbook manufacturers, loads of money, and thereby allow for price cuts. Consider HP's Mini 1000 MIE (Mobile Internet Experience), the Linux-based version of its popular Mini 1000 series. The Mini 1000 MIE was priced at $379 in the US, compared to Windows-based iterations of the same computer that fetched $549. (HP decided not to launch the Linux version in the UK.)
It might take a while for those used to the Windows experience to grow accustomed to Android, and many would be hesitant to make the switch. However, Google has become a trusted name in the industry. Those tired of shelling out for Windows may find themselves gravitating to the Android alternative, and as this trend progress, open-source Android would evolve into a richer, more popular experience, giving Google a considerable advantage in a Microsoft-congested OS battleground. That kind of exposure could bolster Google into a powerful position in the computer biz.
Netbooks are primarily aimed at the casual computing crowd, so what better OS than one originally intended for a device that fits in the palm of your hand? Windows can be a complicated, fickle beast - especially the much-hated Vista - that's packed with memory-hogging features that are useless to those who just want to surf the web and write email. Android on a netbook can streamline the computing process with a simple interface and online-based applications, such as Google Docs. Google was practically born to serve straightforward means.
HP is currently "studying" the Android OS and refuse to speculate on future products that may or may not happen. But the stars are aligned, and it looks like HP could crush its competition if these speculations became reality.
Brennon Slattery writes for PC World.