Preston Gralla

Android attacks Windows in the netbook market and may win

March 07, 2011 11:29 AM EST
Remember the netbook market? It's still alive, and Microsoft dominates it. But that bastion of Windows is about to come under attack from Android, as Asus says it will be using Android for netbooks.

Seattlepi reports that Asus CEO Jerry Shen told a Russian Web site that he'll be selling netbooks that use Android as well as the MeeGo operating system. (For the English translation of the site, go here.) He didn't say in the interview whether he'll still use Windows for netbooks, although it's a safe assumption that he's not abandoning Windows.

More disturbing for Microsoft is that Shen took a subtle backhand swipe at netbooks based on Windows, saying that "thanks to Windows netbooks have become mini-laptops." By moving to Android and MeeGo, he says, netbooks will go back to their roots --  simple, light, and inexpensive. Clearly, he's doing this to compete with tablets.

Android is better suited than Windows for inexpensive, lightweight netbooks. It requires less hardware and is simpler and more responsive. It's also touch-enabled. 

It's hard to imagine that Windows-based netbooks can survive in the long term. On one end, they'll have to compete against lighter, more nimble netbooks based on Android. On the other, they'll compete against tablets like the iPad and Android tablets.

It's one more example of Microsoft not being able to gain traction in the market for highly mobile devices. Windows Phone 7 still hasn't taken off, and Microsoft has no real tablet presence, and won't for quite some time. And now it looks as if its netbook domination is imperiled as well.

It shows that Microsoft's strategy of relying on Windows for tablets and netbooks simply isn't working. The company needs to move away from relying on the resource-heavy Windows for small, lightweight mobile devices. Windows Phone 7 is a better match.