OK, here's the news: Acer will be releasing an Android-powered netbook in Q3 2009. It will be the Acer Aspire netbook, which is already available with Windows XP installed. It will have the same processor, so there won't be a boost in battery life; however, it will likely cost a tad less because Acer won't have to pay Microsoft for Windows.
Surely you must agree that this is exciting news--even if you'd never consider using an OS other than Windows, we all know competition makes everything better. (Just try out IE 8.0 over 7.0 and you'll see what I mean.) But, let's get a little theoretical: can the Android netbook be successful?
The ARM will come into play. There's been rumors of ARM processor- equipped netbooks with 10-15 hours of battery life for awhile now, but we've yet to see one yet. This is going to be key for Android--the Android netbooks need something compelling to bring people to make the switch. Saving a few bucks won't cut it, but battery life is a big deal for a lot of users, so I think this could be the determining factor. Unfortunately, the upcoming Acer Aspire will have an Atom-based processor anyway, so that doesn't bode overly well for its success.
Android smartphone success matters. While The Register truthfully noted that netbooks are used more like notebooks than smartphones, I still think the success of Android smartphones will make a significant difference on Android netbook adoption. Familiarity, trust, and coolness factor play a big part. If people are familiar with Android and want to learn it, they can get used to Linux on a netbook. Consumers are becoming increasingly technology-savvy, so I don't buy that Linux is just too hard.
Will Android smartphones be successful?
In the past few weeks, there was been a lot of buzz about the oncoming wave of Android-equipped smartphones. (I wrote about this way back in February, but oh well.) What exactly happens when the Android fleet launches is still up in the air, but I'll keep my original prediction that they will be a hit. In order for Android phones to be successful, there will need to be enough buzz around the operating system to build a strong enough fiber that binds all the devices together.
It's a small number of phones that have a big enough reputation to be discussed by name. People say "Oh sweet, you have an iPhone!" or highlight the prestige of owning a BlackBerry. But, it's much less likely for someone to say "Wow, you have a Windows Mobile phone?!" or "Hey! Nice Samsung t63924!" (No, that's not a real model, but you catch my drift.) So, the question is, will each individual phone just be a no-name phone that has Android, or will it be "Wow, you have an Android phone!" Of course quality will be a key factor, but perception is reality.
To sum up, the success of the Android netbooks is still a longshot. Users are familiar with Windows on their notebooks and netbooks, and it'll take a compelling offering to get them to switch. Worse yet for Android, Windows 7 is on its way and its no pushover. But, if Android netbooks can utilize ARM processors, if Android can gain a significant coolness factor and customer recognition, and if the devices can offer a decent cost advantage, then we just might see a real competitor in the netbook market.