Netbooks and Google Android Defy Downturn

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Google’s Android mobile operating system is likely to see increased adoption as hardware buyers tightening their purse strings consider netbooks and other types of mininotebooks in lieu of full-size laptops

Netbooks have resisted the dips in shipment numbers that other hardware has experienced in response to an ailing economy. Now, new data from ABI Research suggests that not only are netbooks weathering the recession, but they may be helped by it.

“Netbook sales may not be adversely affected—in fact may actually be helped—by the recessionary pressures,” Philip Solis, an analyst with ABI, wrote in the recent research report.

“There are three reasons for this,” Solis added. “First, netbooks are a fairly new class of device, and widespread adoption has only recently begun. Secondly, they are relatively inexpensive, and some consumers may see them as a viable alternative to that pricey laptop they originally intended to buy.”

Finally, Solis concluded, “They can run inexpensive operating systems that don’t require powerful hardware.”

The operating system on three out of four netbooks shipped last year was Microsoft Windows XP, ABI states. Microsoft has asserted that 96 percent of netbooks run some version of Windows.

While netbooks are becoming more powerful—and are in the throes of evolution, some say—ABI asserts that the more important changes have been at the lower end of the market, and that to create more inexpensive devices, designers are turning to Linux and the Google Android operating system.

Research firm Strategy Analytics expects to see the Android mobile operating system take 12 percent of global smartphone shipment market share by 2012, as well as show growth in other device segments, which is already in evidence this year.

T-Mobile plans to release a home phone and a tablet computer running Android, Asustek Computer is said to be considering Android, and so are Acer, Hewlett-Packard and Dell.

“ABI Research believes that 2010 will see the tipping-point at which netbooks running Linux-based and mobile operating systems outnumber those running Windows XP,” said Solis.

He added, “Device vendors, chip makers and mobile operators can take some comfort from the fact that this trend should help expand the market even in a down economy.”

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