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Google to market Android netbooks, mobile TV?

Mar 11, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

In an interview, Google CEO Eric Schmidt suggested his company may enter the netbook market with Android. Schmidt (pictured) later went on the Charlie Rose show on PBS, where he tipped Google's plans to enter the mobile TV market.

The move into netbooks is not surprising, as Google development in the area has been rumored for several months. Yet this appears to be the first time a Google executive has publicly hinted at it. According to OSnews, former Novell chief Schmidt spoke at a March 3rd Q&A in San Francisco, where he suggesting that subsidized, Android-powered netbooks would be arriving soon.

“Eventually, it will make sense for operators and so forth to subsidize the use of netbooks so they can make services revenue and advertising revenue on the consumption,” Schmidt was quoted as saying. Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, whose company is readying a Windows 7 distribution that it hopes will compete in the netbook space, has also publicly predicted a netbook version of Android, says the story.

Rumors have been flying recently that Google is working on a netbook implementation of the Linux/Java Android mobile stack, and that it is collaborating with Asus to develop an Android-based prototype. Asus has been focusing mostly on Windows XP installs for its most recent Intel Atom-based Eee PC netbooks. However, its early models helped Linux capture around a quarter of the hot netbook market.

ARM race ahead?

Always Innovating
“Touch Book”

(Click for details)

Android currently runs on the ARM architecture, but presumably would be ported to x86 for use on Asus netbooks. Yet, netbooks based on the ARM architecture are also expected to arrive soon, bringing with them better battery life. Microsoft only supports x86 with its desktop/netbook stacks, so Linux's relative maturity on ARM could prove advantageous if ARM netbooks take off.

Freescale Semiconductor has begun sampling an ARM Cortex-A8-based i.MX515 system-on-chip (SoC) targeted at the netbook market, and expected to support Android. Also on the ARM front, Always Innovating recently announced a Linux netbook based on Texas Instruments's Cortex-A8-based OMAP3x SoC. The Touch Book (pictured) will be capable of running Android as well as its native OpenEmbedded/Angstrom Linux distribution, says the vendor.

If Google does not enter the netbook market soon, it could be playing catch-up with Intel-Atom-based netbooks running the new Moblin V2 for Netbooks. Moblin V2 has already received positive reviews, albeit only for the current alpha version of the Linux mobile stack. Of course, Windows 7 is likely to do well in a market that Microsoft already dominates with Windows XP.

Android TV?

According to a TechCrunch story on Schmidt's March 6 appearance (pictured at top) on Charlie Rose, the Google CEO also sees mobile TV as a future direction for Google's Android-based mobile phones. In a transcript of the show published on the site, Schmidt was quoted as saying that within five or ten years, advances in mobile TV and mobile devices would make it possible to “watch television and watch your show routinely on these devices, in very high quality.”

MobileTV DH02

(Click for details)

Schmidt appeared to tamp down rumors that Google was ready to buy Twitter. “We're unlikely to buy anything in the short term partly because I think prices are still high,” he was quoted as saying.

While Schmidt was likely referring to IP (Internet protocol) TV for on-demand viewing, broadcast TV for devices is also evolving rapidly. A variety of industry groups are pushing different mobile TV standards for 3G and 4G networks. The one with the most momentum appears to be DVB-H, an offshoot of the terrestrial DVB-T and the satellite DVB-S standards. The other two are Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB), which is being used extensively in South Korea, and Qualcomm's MediaFlo, which is being tested by Verizon Wireless in the U.S. Qualcomm is a key member of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) overseeing the Android spec, and furnishes HTC with its MSM7201a SoC for the G1 and upcoming Magic Android phones. The company has also announced that its new MSM8x SoCs will also support Android.

Motorola, which is preparing to ship an Android phone later this year, has already introduced a MobileTV DH02 handheld device (pictured above, left) designed for DVB-H video. Although it currently lacks voice capability, the device looks a lot like an Android smartphone, with a 4.8-inch touchscreen, gesture-based UI, and GPS navigation.

Last year, the Communications Research Center Canada (CRC) created a prototype handset called the “Openmokast” phone, which is said to receive DMB TV signals. The Openmokast is built atop OpenMoko's open-source Linux Neo FreeRunner phone platform. Another Canadian organization, Koolu, is readying an Android version of the Neo FreeRunner.


The OSNews story on Schmidt's netbook comments may be found here.

A TechCrunch transcript of the Charlie Rose interview with Schmidt may be found here.

The Schmidt broadcast can be replayed from this page at the Charlie Rose site, here.

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