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 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.


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