Sunday, January 4, 2009

Android + Snapdragon: A Perfect Match

The big gadget story of last week was the news that the guys over at VentureBeat had managed to port Android onto the Asus EEE. I believe that all signs point to the fact that this is precisely the direction that Google plans on taking Android. They have never been shy about their goal of dethroning Microsoft from the top of the tech hierarchy and netbooks provide an opportunity to do precisely that. They are exactly the type of always connected machines that can fulfil Google's visions of cloud computing. Google has also explicitly stated that they see Android eventually going far beyond its current home in smartphones and powering all sorts of new devices.

This is where Qualcomm and their ARM based Snapdragon chipset come into the story. Qualcomm has been quite public about their efforts to take on Intel's Atom chip directly in the netbook space. The problem for Qualcomm is simple, while the power consumption, size, and cost dynamics are all huge positives for Snapdragon, the fact that it will mostly be running obscure Linux variations means that consumers wont take a second look at Snapdragon enabled netbooks. The current sales numbers already show this with Windows netbooks far outselling Linux based versions.

This is why the pairing of Snapdragon and Android will work so well for both companies. Android on an Intel chip provides little in the way of positive differentiation versus the Softie/Intel combination. Similarly, Qualcomm needs an OS that is guaranteed to have a wide range of applications available and a brand that consumers will recognise. Google gets a hardware architecture that emphasizes substantially longer battery life than x86, lower cost, smaller form factors, and always on connectivity. That is exactly the recipe that is needed to give cloud computing a chance against Windows.

It also helps that these two companies have a bit of a history with Qualcomm being the first chipset manufacturer to support the handset version of Android. The T-Mobile G1 is running on a Qualcomm MSM7200a. I believe that we will see an announcement expanding this relationship into the netbook space within the next six months or so.

An interesting tidbit that might show that this effort is further along than most suspect....Net Applications has reported that a third of the visitors from had obscured the OS they were using. According to Net App, they would have had to go out of their way to make this kind of change. Perhaps an expanded version of the Android OS is being hidden?

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