Despite a slim showing of new Android mobile phones and devices at last week's MWC in Barcelona, Microsoft is apparently braced for a desktop challenge from Google as the search giant develops a tethered version of its open, Linux-based operating environment.
Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, told analysts this week in 'a call' that he saw Google's Android operating system as a potential threat to Windows - and not just Windows Mobile. Ballmer says he expects to see a desktop version of Android to emerge and compete with Microsoft's Windows software.
Ballmer is reported to have indicated that Microsoft will fight to hold onto the netbook PC market and will release a stripped-down version of its new operating system, Windows 7, to run on them to head off the Linux and Android challenges.
Talk of Android on PCs is not new, but Bullmer's comments are a first public indication that Microsoft is taking the threat seriously. And it should: sources say several PC vendors are already working with Google to develop specific desktop Android system software and a finished product is expected to emerge in 2010.
Such a software development would see an Android version optimised for tethered desktop computers. That software would be distinct from the mobile Android currently being populated with applications software and optimised for portable (low powered) devices with small screens.
But even mobile Android is capable of tackling a broad mobile Internet device market, not just smartphones, due to the fact that it can support different graphical user interfaces and screen sizes. As a result there are almost certainly several vendors working on Internet devices and netbooks using Android as it currently stands - take a peek at the public Android software developer discussions and you'll see plenty of exchanges on how to integrate mouse functions and so on.
So does Android really stack up as a contender on the desktop? I think it probably does.
First, because there is a feeling that major ITC technology change is in the air. Windows has had a long run and, with the relative failure of Vista, the industry is trying to understand the dynamics driving what might be an emerging new generation of computer/Internet users with a background in phones, rather than PCs, and a desire to get at the Internet without any complex technology standing in the way.
The thinking is that this large swathe of global users would appreciate devices that have a mobile smartphone heritage and would probably respond well to the idea that the same content (probably stored on the network, Google-style) could be accessed easily by both their phone and their tethered device at home or in the office.
The opportunity for Android to provide the underlying technology framework is clear and that fact is concentrating minds, especially at Microsoft.
please sign in to rate this article