April 01, 2009, 5:47 PM — Is Microsoft losing its stranglehold on the PC world? Well, it's not likely, but there is a new battle in the works that may chip away a bit at the company's market share. According to the Wall Street Journal today, Hewlett-Packard and some other PC makers may use free software from Google to run netbooks and other smaller computers. It has been rumored before that some of the smaller netbooks may eventually run on Google Android, but the Journal article gives serious legs to the rumor.
Android is gaining a presence in the mobile device market, and in fact, the difference between a smartphone and a netbook is getting smaller. My long-standing prediction is that ultimately they will become one and the same.
Google does have some free apps available, including word processing and a spreadsheet, although the Google suite hasn't been much of a challenge to Microsoft so far. Microsoft has countered Google's in-the-cloud apps with its own "software-plus-services" suite. There's little doubt that there will be netbooks running Android. But will it replace Windows? No, not on a large scale, just like Google's word processor and spreadsheet apps have not made a dent in Microsoft Office's market dominance.
But price is a big motivator at the low end of the market, and according to the Journal article, a low-end netbook without Microsoft could sell for as little as $200. Now all of a sudden, the prospect of a "$100 notebook" isn't just something for giving to kids in remote African villages. We may even see them on the market here in the U.S. one day, and if that bargain-basement low end of the market is to exist, it will be Android that drives it.