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H6 Android Netbook

Over the last few months the world has been introduced to Android in a new way.  Not only have Android tablets started to see real success but we’re seeing Android devices make their way to TVs as well.  Google has introduced the first of their [email protected] creation, the Nexus Q, and Android-on-a-Stick devices are  pouring in from overseas.  Sometime next year we’ll be introduced to Android based glasses… but in the meantime we are getting Android netbooks.

New Breed of Netbook

A number of ARM based netbooks have shown up in the last couple weeks, mostly featuring a traditional clamshell design without touchscreens.  The Rikomagic devices are prime examples.  These have fairly typical netbook specifications meshed with the sort of numbers you’d see in an Android tablet, 1024×600 screens with Allwinner processors and 1GB or less RAM.  All of them seem to run Android 4.0 with modifications, most visible through new persistent system buttons, to support keyboard and trackpad.  Generally, they are selling for around $100. 

The Allure of Android

Chances are, we’ll be seeing a lot of these soon.   The main reason is probably price.  Not only is Android much less expensive to ship on these devices, restrictions on its use are nearly nonexistent and the hardware ecosystem supporting its use has grown exponentially.  Nowhere more so than in China.

Using Android allows firms to tap into the growing buzz about the operating system… and leverage its huge App ecosystem.  While Android apps are generally not built for mouse and keyboard, many work just fine.  This is particularly the case for simple web browsing and media consumption activity.  Since that’s a good portion of what netbooks are used for anyway, it’s not as much of a problem that many Android games and business apps expect touch input.

Benefits for Google

Like the increasingly popular ‘Android on a stick’ devices, most of these netbooks seem to come with Google Play pre-installed. Chances are that many of them aren’t really Google Certified devices, but it’s hard to tell given the sketchy information available to match a particular offering to a model number on Google’s list.  Regardless, Google doesn’t seem too serious about enforcing certification for Play and it is reported to work fine.

Then again, why would they be overly concerned?  It might not be much of a moneymaker for them, but ty still profit from the success of these devices.  In addition to promoting their app market, all of these devices seem to retain Google as the default search engine.  That’s where Google makes its main revenue from Android anyway.  Given that many of these devices will probably end up being used close to their point of manufacture, where Google has poor adoption overall, this could be a victory for Google.

Competition For Microsoft

Even the newest, most capable versions of Android aren’t ideal for use with keyboard and trackpad.  There is little doubt that Windows 8 would be a superior choice for devices of this sort… but it would also be more expensive.  Its probably less likely that Android netbooks manufactured by little known Asian firms will seriously compete against Microsoft in America or Europe… but Asia, Africa, and the Middle East might be a different story altogether.  In the same way that Android is sharply limiting Apple’s opportunities in developing markets and the BRIC countries, it might make Microsoft’s resurgence difficult as well.
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