Google Has Big Hopes For Android OS

MobilityOpen SourceSoftware

While Google’s earning report exceeded some analyst expectations, the search engine giant is facing modest declines in revenue as it wrestles with a global economy in recession

Google executives used the company’s earnings call on April 16 as a chance to talk about the expansion of Google Android, their open-source operating system for mobile devices, onto mini-notebooks, known popularly as “netbooks”.

News has been flying for weeks about Google Android’s possible expansion beyond the smartphone world. A variety of IT companies, ranging from T-Mobile and Acer to Dell and Hewlett-Packard, have all been planning a variety of applications for Android. Analysts are in general agreement that Android will eventually demonstrate robust multiplatform capability.

Android made its premiere in August 2008, and analysts predict that the operating system will be running on 12 percent of global smartphone shipments by 2012. Netbooks, with estimated shipments of 22 million units in 2009, represent another potential area of strong growth for Android.

“Overall, it looks like Android is going to have a very, very strong year,” Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said during the call. “We are already aware of many, many uses of Android, which as you know is open source, where literally the devices we hear about near the announcements, so the open source part of the strategy is working.”

“On the netbook side, there are a number of people who have actually taken Android and ported it over to netbook or netbook-similar devices,” he added. “So we think that’s another one of the great benefits of the open source model that we’ve used. We’re excited that that investment is occurring.”

Schmidt emphasised that the porting of Android onto netbooks is taking place largely outside of Google. He also suggested that more announcements from new hardware partners in the Android space would be forthcoming in 2009.

Google has also been tailoring some of its solutions to run more effectively on Android, including an updated version of Gmail with new technologies designed to make it run faster on the Android Web browser.

Google’s competitors likely won’t concede netbook-OS market-share without a fight, however. Microsoft claims that 96 percent of netbooks currently run some version of Windows as opposed to an open-source operating system. The Redmond giant has also been testing a version of Windows 7, due later in 2009, for netbook use.