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Asus May Put Android On Netbooks

By getting the operating system on mini-laptops, Google may be able to challenge Windows' dominance in this fast-growing market.

Asus Eee PC 1000HE

Asus Eee PC 1000HE
(click for larger image)

Asustek Computer may release netbooks sporting Google's open source Android operating system.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Samson Hu, head of Asus' Eee PC division, said the company has dedicated engineers to create an Android netbook that could be completed by the end of the year. The company has not decided if this will lead to a commercially released device, Hu said.

Asus has a lot of experience in the netbook field, as the company's Eee PC essentially launched the market. It also has some experience with Android, as it's working with Garmin to develop a line of smartphones, some of which will run Google's OS.

When Google introduced Android in 2007, it was widely seen as a way for the search company to expand its reach into the mobile phone space. The T-Mobile G1 is the only Android-powered handset available, but there are multiple smartphones expected this year from HTC, Motorola, and other major cell phone manufacturers.

While smartphones are the focus right now, Google wants to get the OS onto as many devices as possible, including set-top boxes, mobile Internet devices, and netbooks. Archos is already prepping to put the Linux-based OS on an Internet-connected tablet, Nvidia will support Android on its Tegra chipset, and Freescale Semiconductor recently added support for Google's OS to its ARM-based processors.

The move could deal a blow to Microsoft's Windows, which is quickly becoming the OS of choice for the booming netbook market. While it will likely not offer manufacturers its OS for free like Google does, Microsoft is tailoring its forthcoming Windows 7 OS to run well on low-powered machines like netbooks.

Pressure from open source competitors like Android means Windows may have to open up its operating system to drive down costs and maintain its developer ecosystem. InformationWeek published an in-depth report on overhauling Microsoft, and it can be downloaded here (registration required).