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Android invades more netbooks, smartphones, and — Moblin?

Jun 4, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

At this week's Computex show, Intel demonstrated Moblin running Android apps in a simulator. Meanwhile, Android phones were confirmed by Acer and Garmin-Asus, Acer announced an Android version of its Aspire One netbook (pictured), and Asus provided a brief glimpse of an Android netbook, reports say.

In a speech today at the Computex show in Taiwan, Anand Chandrasekher, SVP of Intel's ultra mobility group, showed several Android applications running on an Atom-based netbook with a Moblin v2 distro, says a PCWorld story. According to the story, Chandrasekher said the Android simulator was added to Moblin to appeal “to carriers that have revenue sharing agreements with Google for Android Marketplace,” and to “allow operators or handset makers that have built their own application stores to easily extend access to devices running Moblin.” The capability is said to be performed with a runtime, and does not require that the device be running Android.

Last month, Canonical demonstrated a prototype version of an execution environment for Ubuntu that lets it run Android apps. The environment is said to act like a simulator, and is based on the Xorg X Window environment. It was unclear whether this technology was related to the Intel simulator. This week, however, Canonical did announce that it will offer a Moblin v2 version of Ubuntu Remix Edition for netbooks.

Nuvifone G60
(Click for details)

Acer, Garmin-Asus prep Android phones

According to IDG News Service, Garmin-Asus announced at Computex that it will launch a much-rumored Android-based smartphone “no later” than 1Q 2009. In May, an industry report quoted a Garmin executive as confirming that the company's previously announced, navigation-oriented Garmin-Asus G60 Nuvifone smartphone would slip to a second-half 2009 shipment instead of the planned June launch. In addition to the Linux-based G60 (pictured), the company is also planning on shipping a Windows Mobile “M20” Nuvifone version later this year.

Also this week, leading netbook vendor Acer announced it had joined the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), and said that it expects to launch smartphones (plural) based on the Android platform in the fourth quarter. Although Acer executives had confirmed the company's Android smartphone plans in April, this is the first time Acer has issued a formal press release. The brief notice, however, offered few details.

Android runs on Atom-based Acer Aspire One

A similarly brief PR was posted to announce that Acer's long-rumored Android-based netbook would also become a reality this year. The company said it plans to offer its first Android-based Aspire One netbook in the third quarter. According to a Reuters story, Acer demonstrated Android running on a regular Intel Atom-based Aspire One netbook (pictured at top), which appears to be an x86 first for the ARM-friendly Android stack.

Alpha 680

(Click for details)

Other announced and rumored Android netbooks have all been based on ARM processors, such as the Skytone Alpha 680 (pictured), which is expected to ship this month, running on an ARM11-based Freescale i.MX31. Additional low-end netbooks called “smartbooks” based on ARM-based Qualcomm Snapdragon and Freescale i.MX515 system-on-chips (SoCs) were also said to have been demonstrated at Computex this week.

The Acer press release on Android netbooks included a statement from Jim Wong, president of IT Products Global Operation, Acer, saying, “The Android operating system offers incredibly fast wireless connection to the Internet; for this reason, Acer has decided to develop Android netbooks for added convenience to our customers.”

Acer dabbles with Android, but goes gaga over Moblin

Also at Computex, IDG News Service reports that Acer said it would use the Linux-based Moblin v2 stack across all its products, including, surprisingly enough, laptop and desktop PCs. The Acer PR mentioned that it would also continue to offer Windows-based netbooks.

Apparently, Acer made no mention which specific Moblin-based distributions it would be running. Novell announced this week that a Moblin v2 version of SUSE Linux was being demonstrated at Computex on Acer and MSI netbooks. At the show it was also announced that Linpus Linux Lite, Ubuntu Netbook Remix, Xandros, and Red Flag Midinux would also offer the Linux-based Moblin v2 stack. Linpus Linux Lite was the original Linux distro used on Aspire One netbooks.

Is an Android netbook in Asus' future?

According to several reports, including an IDG News Service story, Asustek (Asus) allowed Qualcomm to demonstrate its ARM/Snapdragon SoC running Android on an Asus Eee PC netbook at Computex, but then a day later removed the demo. Asus executives claimed the technology was not sufficiently mature to continue running the demo, according to IDG News Service. According to the story, many observers perceived that the demo looked quite polished.

While sharing a stage with Intel and Microsoft executives later, Asus chairman Jonney Shih was said to have apologized for the demo. Asus executives later denied, however, that the company was pressured to remove the demo.

Although Asus helped launch the Linux netbook craze with its Xandros-based Eee PC netbook, in recent months, higher end models tend to be available only with Windows XP installs. According to Xandros, Asus will support its new Moblin-based netbook distro on some of its Eee PC models; however, it remains to be seen how committed Asus is to any netbook without the Windows logo on it. Even in the smartphone arena, the Windows Mobile stalwart seems to have selected a partnership in its Garmin-Asus Nuvifone in order to dabble in Android without excessively antagonizing Microsoft.

ChannelWeb, meanwhile, has reported that Asus has launched a website called “It's Better With Windows”, which the story refers to as “a clear jab at Linux,” as well as “bizarre,” “shoddy,” and an example of “FUD.” The site boldly proclaims, “Windows helps you quickly and easily get online and connect to your devices and services — without dealing with an unfamiliar environment or major compatibility issues.” According to the story, Microsoft helped Asus develop the site and plans to work with other vendors to develop similar sites.

Is Android really the answer?

Finally, standing out in the great wash of Android-laden verbiage gushing forth from Computex this week, Bill Weinberg has posted a blog on LinuxPundit, suggesting that Android is indeed the best opportunity for the success of Linux on netbooks. Following up on his earlier tough-love assessment on Linux netbooks, in which he suggested that Microsoft had largely won the market back from Linux, Weinberg now suggests that Linux netbooks are best served by working up from the smartphone rather than down from the notebook. Android certainly appears to span that gap in theory. We will soon be able to see if it can do so in practice.


The PCWorld story on Intel's Android simulator on Moblin may be found here.

The Reuters story on Acer's Android netbook demo may be found here.

The IDG News Service story on Garmin-Asus' Android smartphone plans should be here, and its report on the temporary Asus/Android smartbook demo should be here.

The ChannelWeb story on the Microsoft/Asus anti-Linux FUD campaign, should be here.

The LinuxPundit blog on Android netbooks should be Motorola falters as competitors prep Android phones

  • Simulator runs Android apps on Ubuntu
  • Qualcomm snaps to with "smartbook" push
  • More Linux distros tap Moblin for netbooks
  • Android port to MIPS completed
  • Google unveils Android 2.0
  • Game over for Linux netbooks?
  • First Android netbooks surface
  • Study: Linux to lead smartphone growth
  • Acer leads hot netbook market

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