First Android-Powered Netbook This Summer?
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"Guangzhou Skytone Transmission Technologies Company" isn't a corporate name that likely springs to mind for many when they think of notebook PCs.
But it could be set to become a lot more well-known if it makes good on its bid to become the first to market with a netbook based on Google's Android operating system.
The company is currently in the final testing stages and expects to release it within three months for an estimated price of $250.
Guangzhou Skytone's co-founder Nixon White told Computerworld that the device, branded the Skytone Alpha 680, could ship as early as July. According to the company's product site, the Alpha 680 uses a 533MHz ARM 11 CPU, the same chip used by Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) in the iPhone, has a 800x480 seven-inch LCD screen, touchpad, keyboard, and built-in Wi-Fi.
Total storage, though, is skimpy: 128MB of memory, expandable to 256MB, and 1GB of sold state drive (SSD) storage, expandable to 4GB. That's not including the use of other flash drives in its SD card and USB ports. The device would only weigh about 1.5 pounds.
Android is a Linux-based operating system Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) developed for the handheld market. The first Android device, the HTC G1, is sold by U.S. wireless carrier T-Mobile, and while popular, hasn't set the world on fire the way the iPhone has.
However, there has been interest in using Android in other phones and other devices. T-Mobile said it will launch more Android devices this year and next, and both Dell and HP are considering use of Android in upcoming netbooks and smartphones.
The main appeal of Android to all of these players, especially netbook players, is the price: It's free. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has been the dominant OS vendor in the netbook space, selling a whittled-down version of Windows XP for netbooks for $50.
It also promises its forthcoming Windows 7 operating system will run on netbooks as well, although not on devices with specs as low as the Skytone Alpha 680.
For all the talk of seeking an alternative to Windows, it was alternatives to Windows that seemed to have been the biggest boomerangs. Earliest netbooks loaded with Linux came right back to retailers, with return rates of more than 10 percent, as customers found themselves confused as to how to run a non-Windows machine.
For that reason, NPD Group analyst Stephen Baker, who has tracked netbook sales and the high return rate, remains skeptical.
[cob:Special_Report]"It will run all the risks of Linux notebooks -- that's why I think Android will not be successful on netbooks as long as people consider them to be PCs," he told InternetNews.com.
"When they are not viewed as PCs, that will give people a different viewpoint of what they are buying and give Android an opportunity to be viewed differently, like when customers are buying a smartphone," he added. "As long as this is marketed as a PC, you won't see the mass consumers embrace it like they would with something with a Windows or Apple logo on it."
Guangzhou Skytone spokespeople did not return request for comment by press time.