Last week’s Google Chrome OS announcement doesn’t seem to be impacting prior plans for Android netbooks. DigiTimes indicates that Acer is still planning to launch a dual-boot netbook that offers both Microsoft Windows XP and Google Android. I don’t envision any cost difference between an XP/Android netbook and an XP-only device — the cost of a Windows XP license has to be paid in both cases. So there’s no benefit in terms of cost, but there is a value-add in having another operating system for those that want it. Or is there?
I’m not sure I understand why Acer is continuing to pursue the Android angle. It will offer the company some hands on-time to integrate a Google operating system with its hardware. But Android is ideally suited for ARM-based devices, and Google has made it clear that Chrome OS is their future for netbooks. Heck, Acer is even one of the hardware vendors that have already signed on for Chrome OS.
If Acer wants to kick Android’s tires on their netbooks in a limited, or behind closed door environment, that’s fine. But what will consumers gain from a Windows XP netbook with Android on another partition? I suspect that people will add Android to their Acer netbook simply because there’s no additional charge. They’re going to get something that they don’t understand to begin with, and eventually will end up confused. If that happens, there’s risk that they equate a bad experience with “the Google OS” even though this isn’t the OS that Google ultimately plans for netbooks.
The timing of this also seems strange to me. Acer is planning to drop these “XP-droid” machines in August, but Windows 7 launches in October. Right about now should be the time to integrate the new Microsoft operating system, not use one from eight years ago as a main course with a smartphone OS for dessert. Sure, a company can work on multiple integration projects at once, but the future for netbooks isn’t in XP any more than it’s in Android.
For us techies, adding Android to a netbook has a certain fun factor. We add operating systems to different devices just to play and learn. I’ve done this very thing with various Linux builds and Mac OS X on my netbook. But just because we do these things doesn’t mean the consumer-at-large wants or needs them. I’m scratching my head over this move by Acer. Have I overlooked something here?