Atom + Android Doesn't Equal Netbook Success

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print


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Forget the hype folks. Combining Google’s Android operating system with Intel’s Atom processor will lead to a netbook dead end.

Hewlett-Packard seems to be taking netbook computers in the wrong direction with its commitment to offer Google’s Android on its netbook PCs. Other than the "cool" factor, Android has very little to offer to the netbook PC market, except perhaps some hype. The last thing netbook users need is another flavor of Linux to choose from. Linux market share on netbooks has dropped to less than 15 percent since Microsoft slashed prices on Windows XP Home Edition, and Android is unlikely to change that trend.

Netbooks are in the throes of evolution. The original concept of an inexpensive Web surfing device is quickly giving way to the idea of a multipurpose device that borders on the full functionally of a laptop computer.

Many early netbook buyers are beginning to experience buyer’s remorse, wishing their netbooks did a little more and did it a little faster, and the industry is answering by increasing screen sizes from 10 to 12 inches, offering more powerful processors (such as the Via Nano) and embracing Windows as an operating system.

Not only does that mark the end for Linux on the netbook computer, but it also does not bode well for Intel’s Atom processor, which many are finding to be underpowered for tasks beyond Web surfing. Simply put, combining Atom and Android will not fuel the purchase of netbook PCs. Android has its roots as an operating system meant for cell phone and PDAs, while Atom was designed for PDA-like devices.

Netbook manufacturers will need to follow a different path to stay on the cutting edge of netbook technology and grow their market share. Some manufacturers have the pieces in place, yet have to execute to create the next generation of netbooks.

For those desiring an inexpensive operating system, Linux is still the natural choice, but feature-rich distributions that offer more than Android should be the norm and not the exception. Distributions such as Presto from Xandros or Splashtop should become the distributions of choice. Both offer a near-instant boot-up process and can coexist with Windows. Asus, for one, is well-positioned to embrace Splashtop as its Linux of choice, as it has been building Splashtop into its motherboards for some time.

On the processor front, Atom is starting to reach its limits—the CPU can’t run Windows Vista effectively and probably won’t be able to run Windows 7 in the future. Some manufacturers, such as Samsung, have turned to Via’s Nano processor, which offers better performance than Atom without a price penalty.

Although Hewlett-Packard is making noise in this emerging market, the netbook vendors to watch include Dell, Asus, MSI and Samsung. Each of these is offering larger screens, better OS choices and improved performance, while trying to keep the line on price.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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