March 6, 2009 at 11:56 am
In the clearest indication yet in how serious Google is pushing the Android platform, Digitimes is reporting that Google has set up an Android technology team in Taiwan. The purpose of the team is to offer technical support to Taiwanese hardware manufacturers in developing for the Android platform. According to the president of Google Taiwan, Chien Lee-feng, this includes development for netbooks and embedded systems. Given that both Acer and Asus are based in Taiwan, two of the biggest netbook manufacturers, in our view an Android-powered netbook is a matter of time.
This news is timely given how yesterday we reported that Asus is considering using Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets in upcoming Eee PCs. However, one of the limitations of using Snapdragon is being unable to use Windows on a Qualcomm chip, thereby having to rely on either Linux or Android. Qualcomm and other vendors are using ARM-based processors to try to take share in a market in which Intel’s Atom dominates. According to research from IDC (International Data Corp) ARM-based netbooks with processors from Qualcomm, Freescale, Texas Instruments and others will ship this year but command no more than 10-20 percent of the market for the next few years.
According to Luis Pineda, senior vice president of marketing for Qualcomm’s CDMA Technologies group, Snapdragon offers a compelling solution over Intel’s Atom. “A netbook is no good if you can’t connect to the Internet and have to look for a WiFi hotspot,” Pineda said. He believes that Snapdragon will define the netbook category by enabling devices that are always connected to a 3G network, similar to mobile phones. He also cites Snapdragon’s power efficiency, which eliminates the need for heat sinks and internal fans in a netbook.
While the majority of consumers are likely to choose Windows-based netbooks, having an always connected experience may become more relevant going forward. With Google willing to set up in the back-yard of some of the biggest netbook manufactures highlights how seriously it plans to tap this market. Over the longer-term horizon, the software barrier within Android is likely to be less of an issue for the consumer.