Maybe an Android Netbook Isn’t a Good Idea After All


Back in December, I penned some thoughts about an Android-powered netbook. I thought it was a decent idea at the time. After all, one could argue that the primary function of a netbook is to get on the ‘net. And for some, like me, it is. But the rise of mobile application stores has me rethinking my position. I realize that I’m probably in the minority when it comes to mobile use: I live in the browser and don’t really need to use applications. However, I often see reader commentary here along these lines: “I need to run [insert app name here]. Can I do that with a netbook?”

After watching a video of the Skytone Alpha 680 Android netbook over at Android Community, I know that I could get by with the device since the Webkit-browser would suffice. I didn’t walk away impressed, however.

At $250, the price is nearly the same as a low-end netbook with a higher resolution display and a full desktop operating system. Why pay so much for something that is limited to a relatively meager number of apps on the Android (s GOOG) platform? In December, I had hopes of vast software title availability in the Android Marketplace, but that really hasn’t happened yet. Even though the number of titles is growing, they’re nowhere near the same as the number of apps available on traditional desktop systems.

Then there’s the “would I carry it?” question. Obviously, I’d carry a netbook; I have since October of 2007. But an Android netbook, in its current state, would be more like carrying a big version of a phone. Even though it has web access and a solid browser, it doesn’t offer me much more than a solid smartphone. Sure, there’s a bigger display and a full keyboard, but I’m not sure that’s enough for me. Plus, the feature-set is semi-redundant with my phone.

If an Android netbook is simply going to bring a “bigger but same” experience as carrying a T-Mobile G1 handset, most folks aren’t going to be willing to pay $250 or more for it — probably not even $150 when for $300 or so, they can get a netbook that’s far more capable in terms of software. I really thought I was on to something in December, but looking back now, I’m not so sure. I might feel differently if there were thousands of useful Android applications. Unfortunately, until that happens (or we see mass migration to cloud apps), I think an Android-powered netbook is going to be a tough sell. Even to me.


remote desktop software

I definitely agree. If Androids app catalog was a LOT bigger this might make sense, but until now it sits awkwardly between laptops and smartphones without the appeal of either. It’s a little early for something like this.


i think android would be fine, on the right device. that device isn’t a netbook. netbooks are too close to ‘traditional’ PCs (they are traditional PCs, just smaller).

i think android might make a lot more sense if it was one a thin e-reader-like device with NUI options (touch, voice, pen).


Kevin,I agree with both of your positions. The many questions relating to form factor are not articulated well enough (in public, in press, or -least of all-, in marketing) for clear answers to be appreciated. Since there are physical realities involved in people’s mobile environment there will eventually be a settled set of devices which will allow us transparent access to and management of our information regardless of to our circumstances. The devices will cooperate with one another and the “cloud” will include our own part of it as well.
For now, you are right. Eventually, you will be right again.


Look how Open Pandora is doing with Angstrom linux distro.. IMHO both Android & Ubutnu suck.. it’s time for some other distro to thread the path of better netbook future.


> Even though it has web access and a solid browser,
> it doesn’t offer me much more than a solid smartphone.

Didn’t you say you live in a browser? So it offers you that, plus a bigger screen and a better keyboard than a solid smartphone. You’re their target customer.

I am not, however :)


The App Store does have a lot of apps but how many would translate over to a larger screen? Will the current apps even scale or would it require a rewrite with a fluid layout manager? I’m unsure what the layout manager is like on the iPhone.

And a more pithy question is how many of those apps would lose their luster if not done on a tiny device like a phone? Not that I’m arguing they all would, I’m genuinely curious.


What about a larger form-factor iPhone? They touted it as having the full Mac OS on it. The app store does have a lot of apps…

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