Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Which OS would you want in a Netbook?

A report surfaced on Monday claiming that the new Acer Aspire One Netbook featuring Android will start shipping in August. The price of the Netbook is still unknown.

The computer reportedly will have the Google mobile operating system installed but will be configured as a dual-boot system, also shipping with Microsoft's Windows XP.

In June, just a few days after Acer announced that an Android-based Netbook would hit store shelves, the company told Digitimes that deploying a dual-OS strategy was in its best interest.

"(Acer Chairman) Wang pointed out that the dual-OS strategy is much safer for Acer, since consumer acceptance of the Android platform is unclear for the time being," DigiTimes reported. "Acer will be able to promote Android as a value-added feature, similar to Asustek Computer's Express Gate, to account for any price premium."

It's an interesting decision. To hedge its bets, Acer has decided that consumers wouldn't want an Android-only Netbook. So if you're looking to buy one of these computers, you'll have two operating systems from which to choose. Which OS would you pick?

Android's promise
I'm a true believer that Android has some real promise on Netbooks. I've been extremely happy with the operating system. It might not be the iPhone OS, but it's close.

Android's allure can be found in its apps. Although Windows XP enjoys compatibility with just about any desktop software package, there are great opportunities for extending the functionality of a Netbook with Android. From social-networking apps to games, the platform could provide a unique, compelling Netbook experience.

Plus, Android is designed for touch-screen devices. So if Acer ever wanted to release a Netbook that sports a touch screen, there's little doubt that Android could be the more attractive operating system over anything Microsoft offers.

Android's problems
Admittedly, Android will face some serious issues as it makes its way to Netbooks. How will it interact with hardware such as printers and accessories? Since some of the software that end users employ is designed for Mac OS X or Windows, chances are, those programs won't work with Android. It could prove to be an extremely frustrating computing experience. And it might turn some back to Windows.

Of course, Acer might be able to make Android compatible with most external hardware. But since it's based on Linux, incompatibility will be a problem, no matter what it tries.

Perhaps it does make some sense to bundle two operating systems with Acer Netbooks. Consumers can use Windows XP for those moments when they need to access software or hardware. They can use Android when they want to enjoy a basic computing experience, surf the Web, check e-mail, or play with neat applications.

Each operating system has its own unique benefit. But in a dual-boot system, only one can be used at once. So which would be your primary OS?

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