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The use of Google’s Linux-based operating system Android in
netbooks has the potential to muscle computing incumbents Microsoft and Intel
out of the mini-PC computing space as more mobile phone components make their
way into PCs.

The end result would likely be even less expensive netbooks
based on technologies originally designed for phones, such as Google’s Android,
and processors from ARM, which are commonly
used in mobile phones. Intel has said it plans to target the smartphone market
with its Atom processor, which so far has been widely used in netbooks.

ARM offers its processors
as intellectual property that is licensed and then manufactured by another
company, based on the needs of the end device.

While Gartner has forecast the steepest decline in PC unit sales
in history
for 2009 at just under 12 percent, the analyst firm has said that
netbooks would be a bright spot and their sales would continue to rise.

That trend might even be accelerated if the price of
netbooks could be cut even further from its sub-$500 level. Many netbooks now
are commonly available for about $300.

The even less expensive netbooks using the Android OS and an
ARM processor could potentially be
subsidized by wireless telecommunications carriers for the consumer market.
AT&T and Verizon have both staked a claim in this space, with AT&T
already releasing such a netbook for $100 for customers who sign a two-year
data contract – much the way wireless carriers subsidize the sale of mobile

However, a netbook based on Android as its OS and an ARM
processor would not likely behave like the PCs that most users have become
accustomed to because it would not run familiar office applications. Some early
netbooks that were based on other Linux operating systems were not as popular
as those based on Microsoft Windows XP because most PC applications are written
for Windows and don’t work on Linux.

The story was first reported in the Wall Street Journal when
an HP executive told reporters there that the company was studying Android for
use in netbooks. Asus, the top seller of netbooks by unit
volume, has also said that it is looking at using Android in netbooks. Experts
believe the market could see such netbooks by the end of 2009.