Over the next year scores of Android-powered eReaders, smartbooks, tablets, and other next-generation devices are expected to come to market. However, the future of the OS as the best choice for mobile device makers isn’t a given.
Microsoft is collaborating with HP to offer Windows 7 on its Slate tablet, which has built-in touch support and the OS familiarity netbook owners have traditionally preferred. At the same time, Intel will be rolling out even more efficient Atom processors that will be able to power a new generation of Windows-based tablets and MIDs, as well as gadgets equipped with MeeGo, a new OS based on a partnership between Intel and Nokia.
The impact of Apple’s iPad might not be felt right away, but many believe it will dominate the category despite robust Android competition, particularly since the app infrastructure is already in place. There’s a chance the iPad might spur Google to expand the criteria for allowing devices access to the Android Market, but not if the company only has eyes for Chrome.
Ultimately, Google’s focus on its upcoming OS may spell trouble for stretching Android. Though Android chief Andy Rubin has posited that different technology is required for different products, Google cofounder Sergey Brin has speculated that the Linux-based cores of both Android and Chrome will likely lead to their convergence over time. “The market is still looking for a good solution,” said Rob Enderle. “It would be ironic if Android was the perfect solution but Google destroyed it [with] Chrome.”
Google’s commitment to open development is still strong, but it’s hard to ignore the restrictions being placed on OEMs who want to create Chrome OS netbooks and tablets. The success of Android in these new categories will likely depend upon the software and apps these device makers bring to the table themselves, which is not exactly an envious position for companies looking to compete against Apple or Microsoft.