Android to rule netbook market

The Google-backed Android platform is likely to emerge as the strongest contender in the growing netbook market, blazing a trail on sub-$200 Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs).

Industry analyst Ovum said this week that netbooks will not bring Linux to the masses to the extent and in the way that many industry watchers are expecting.

Rather, Linux vendors need to focus on the netbook as a sub-$200 appliance rather than an alternative to Windows netbooks and laptops. Despite getting off to a strong start, Linux netbooks have now been overtaken by Windows netbooks and the open source operating system is lagging increasingly behind in terms of sales.

But the laptop market is becoming increasingly complex, with market segments catered for by a growing variety of low-cost netbooks and laptops, where low cost Linux-based operating systems have an opportunity to excel.

Ovum reckons that with two types of device belonging to the same MID market – netbooks, where the MID and laptop markets overlap – and smartphones, where the MID and telephony markets overlap – Linux could make it as the dominant OS by building on its strength as a phone platform as well as its potential as a sub-$200 netbook OS.

The analyst advises Linux vendors to focus specialised distributions for appliance operating systems, especially Android. Both Freescale Semiconductor and Asus unveiled Android netbook plans in February 2009, and more are expected to follow.

As internet-connected applications and app stores are key to the success of the netbook appliance/MID market, Android is perfectly placed to benefit from increasing support from developers, and Ovum hints that the success of Android could even see the platform’s Java-based Dalvik runtime environment ported to other platforms such as Symbian and Windows Mobile.

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