Recently Intel CEO Paul Otellini said he sees a future where you can buy an ultrathin notebook featuring an Intel Atom Bay Trail processor for as little as $200. Now CNET has a few more details about Intel’s vision for the future of cheap notebooks, and that vision includes Google Android.
While it’s possible that we could see Windows 8 notebooks at similarly low prices, it’s likely that device makers will stick to Android or other platforms that have lower licensing costs.
Microsoft charges PC makers a fee for every device they ship with Windows software. While there are patent fees and other charges associated with loading a notebook or tablet with Android software, Google makes its operating system available free of charge. So it’s not surprising that Android products tend to cost less than Windows devices.
A few years ago PC makers took a similar approach toward cutting costs in netbook computers. Some of the first netbooks shipped with Linux-based software such as Xandros, Linpus Linux Light, and OpenSUSE. Microsoft responded by offering low-cost Windows XP (and later Windows 7 Starter) licenses, and for the past few years Linux-powered netbooks have been the exception, not the rule.
But Android-powered notebooks (or convertible tablets) could be in a stronger position than Linux-powered netbooks. There are millions of Android phones and tablets already in the wild, which means that many potential customers are already familiar with the operating system. Android also arguably has a lower learning curve than Ubuntu or other desktop Linux operating systems, and there are hundreds of thousands of apps available for Android devices.
While there’s definitely a group of folks who would prefer an Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora (or even ChromeOS) mini-laptop to one running Android, I’m not surprised to see Intel banking on Android for low-cost notebooks. It’s a trusted brand that’s already proven popular with consumers.
Of course, if Microsoft feels its profit margins are threatened by a surge in sales of low-cost Android notebooks, the company could offer price breaks to PC makers the same way it did a few years ago and we could start to see $200 mini-laptops with Atom chips and Windows 8 software.
And since Intel’s Bay Trail chips are expected to offer twice the performance of earlier Intel Atom chips, that means you may soon be able to pick up a low-cost, small form-factor notebook that’s powerful enough to act as your primary computer.