Acer, the world’s third biggest PC maker, on Tuesday said it would start producing the world’s first mainstream notebook computer using Google’s Android operating system before the end of September.
The move opens a new front in Google’s battle with Microsoft by offering an alternative to the Windows operating system on small, low-priced PCs rather than just the smartphones for which Android was originally designed.
It came as Microsoft revealed that Windows 7, the latest version of its operating system and one designed to work better on less powerful machines, would go on sale on October 22.
Meanwhile, Larry Ellison, chief executive of Oracle, indicated that it would also launch its own software platform for PCs and handheld devices once it completes its acquisition of Sun Microsystems, though he gave no further details.
Signs that Microsoft’s stranglehold on PC operating systems is about to face fresh challenges reflect a sea change in the computing business as smartphones and “netbooks”, or small notebooks, gain in popularity and the lines between different categories of computing device blur.
Microsoft charges about $20 per netbook computer for Windows, analysts say, while Google does not charge for its Android system, which is based on the open source Linux software.
Microsoft’s price for the most basic version of its software is expected to rise with Windows 7, though details have not been announced.
Acer’s new low-end Aspire One will run both the XP and Android operating systems and allows users to switch between the two.
It would still be cheaper than the current model, the company said, but declined to comment further on its pricing strategy.
Skytone, a Chinese maker, recently announced a pure Android netbook that has yet to ship.
Dell, the second biggest computer maker, plans to introduce an Android product, according to a software developer that last month accidentally issued a press release announcing work on the product.
Industry leader Hewlett-Packard was conducting tests but was reluctant to forge ahead for fear of reducing revenue, analysts said.
“Android is beginning to show some wings,” analyst Roger Kay, of Endpoint Technologies Associates, said.