Last week we heard about the first Android-powered Netbook (which I wrote about in First Android Netbook Nothing to Write Home About). Then on Friday, analyst Michael Gartenberg, who is VP of Strategy at Interpret, and who writes frequently about consumer technology sent the following Tweet:
Is Android's future in Netbooks? NO! of course not.
I tweeted back:
@Gartenberg Not exclusively, but I could see Android being a viable Netbook OS.
And Gartenberg replied:
@ron_miller hard to see it. not the right apps and no better than Linux. Linux Netbook return rate is huge.
That got me thinking that ultimately, the OS shouldn't really matter because Netbooks are supposed to be about a light weight OS and easy access to the Web where you spend most of your time. But when it comes down to it consumers are rejecting alternative operating systems, and the question is why?
Why Netbooks Anyway?
The name Netbook evolved from the not very friendly-sounding UMPC or Ultra Mobile PC. The footprint is small and it provides a way to get *online.* with a larger screen than our phones and a smaller footprint than our laptops. If the idea is to get us online, as long as we can find our browser the OS shouldn't matter, right?
I think so, but Gartenberg disagrees citing high return rates of Linux Netbooks.
Does the OS Matter?
Why would you be more comfortable with a Windows OS on your Netbook if you're not doing most of your work locally? I still don't quite get that, but people do return Linux Netbooks at a much higher rate than Windows Netbooks (which must be making Steve Ballmer feel all warm and fuzzy). People would rather deal with the devil they know (Win XP), then deal with an alternate OS.
I bought an Asus Eee Netbook running Linux last summer and the OS couldn't be simpler. You have six tabs: Internet, Work, Learn, Play, Settings and Favorites. Click the Internet tab, double-click Firefox and you're on the Web. Not rocket science I can assure you, and in many ways, much simpler than Windows.
Will Android Suffer Linux's Fate?
Gartenberg suggested that Android would suffer a similar fate to Linux and he thinks it's got the wrong apps. He could be right, but when I go online with my Netbooks, I'm spending a lot of time in Google Apps, not using local apps. In fact, I'm writing this post in Google Apps before I move it to the Daniweb blog platform. For me, so long as I can access the internet with my Netbook and I can figure out basic functions (which in my experience with Linux has been really easy to do), the underlying OS really matters little.
But what I think and my experience clearly doesn't matter. What matters is consumer behavior and that is what Gartenberg has been studying for years. Until consumers realize that the future is on the Web, not the desktop, evidence suggests they would rather use Windows than take a few moments to learn a different way of operating. It's seems silly, but apparently it's hard to overcome OS inertia.