Trend to watch: Android vs. Microsoft

Watch this trend. (from eweek.com)

The Acer Aspire One AOD250, a dual-boot netbook with both Google Android and Microsoft Windows XP operating systems, is now available for $350. An Android-only model is a possibility, Acer says, should carriers push for it. Google‘s popular Android mobile operating system has moved beyond smartphones and made its way into Acer’s newest netbook…

Microsoft has what we feel is the top Office program on the globe (Microsoft Office) but Microsoft’s Windows OS is widely the butt of office jokes (‘blue screen of death’, ‘Save now save often’, etc). Linux has high reliability but Microsoft Office only works well in Microsoft Windows and Linux still has the spectre of supposed technical complexity lurking about to scare off average consumers.

Microsoft is no where near as bad as the jokes, and Linux is no harder to use than Microsoft, but people cannot know all the facts and so they buy based upon facts plus feelings. Consumer’s misconceptions have provided a market balance of sorts. Google would fool the spectre haunting Linux by replacing the name Linux with the highly trusted name Google, thus drastically changing the balance. Systems are made ‘dual boot‘ initially to give buyers a sense of safety: if they don’t like Google Android they can always use the Windows XP.

Google intends to release their new Google Chrome OS, which is made from Linux, in the second half of 2010 to compete head to head with Microsoft Windows. Additionally, the Google apps (email, calendaring, word processing, spreadsheet, and so forth) provide pretty much a ‘one stop shop’ for total corporate connectivity from whatever device you are using, and the system security will be naturally hardened against viruses. Google apps are in ‘The Cloud’ already while we feel that in the public mind Microsoft is still getting there.

People want hassle-free connectivity. And they like ‘free’ as in ‘free beer’. Google is big and it’s free. Consumers will pay for connectivity as long as there are no surprises in cost or usability, but they definitely like ‘free’ better as long as they have confidence it will work. Loosing all your customers’ Sidekick phone contacts as Microsoft just did is not encouraging: if you recover their contacts two weeks later they won’t care: they have already typed them in again. they will however ask themselves “What if the lost data were not mere phone numbers but rather signed business contracts or sales records?”

So people have learned that they can still get a black eye even if they pay someone for service: that narrows the emotional gap between where we are now and a decision to use Google cloud computing. If Google were now to release information about steps they take to safeguard their customers’ data, what would be the market implications? Google may have lost data before, but the public never found out about it. Our current web sites are showing roughly 51.16% of visitors are using some version of Microsoft Windows on their computer: this is down from about 90% a decade ago. I don’t feel Microsoft will drop below 40% market share when the new Google Chrome OS becomes available (our browser web stats show the FireFox browser took about 40.03% market share to Microsoft Internet Explorer’s 36.72%), but there will be a massive popular movement promoting Chrome at that time, and some consumers who never before bothered to try anything else will gain familiarity with an OS other than Microsoft. Some of those people will become Google Evangelists. As Niccolò Machiavelli wrote in “The Prince” once people have tasted of freedom they never forget. Something Machiavelli did not say and is also true is “And they tell all their neighbors.”

As a business, for the present time we are keeping our options open by using Microsoft Windows 7, Vista, and XP, and also Ubuntu and CentOS Linux. The safe path is to embrace technological diversity and vertically integrate enough expertise to take care of ourselves no matter which comes out on top — probably they all will to some degree.

I feel the advent of a Netbook with Android is an indication of more to come but the eventual tipping point will be where the computer is the size of a DayTimer (about 7 by 9 inches and one or 1 1/2 inches thick) and includes simple docking (wireless or infra-red) to a desktop display, keyboard, mouse and extra storage. To dock one simply slides the DayTimer sized computer into a space under the monitor. Such a “data pad” may run slower and have less storage when not on the desktop, but it will run 2 days without charging and have enough writing space (for finger or stylus) on the glass to use for signatures (Sales) and clean web forms (BI, IT). To follow the vision Bill Gates expressed years ago, any computer would fit any docking setup. I hear Microsoft’s Mr. Balmer demonstrated something like that recently.

Any ‘data pad’ computer is highly likely to include a mobile phone capability, with initial players trying to hold buyers captive to their network. Buyers are currently sensitized to this play (remember consumer reaction to AT&T and the iPhone), which drastically raises their operating costs, and someone will recognize the opportunity and offer connect-ability to any wireless phone network of the buyers choice, or VoIP through Internet, or none at all. Google may well be that vendor as their Google Voice (phone) product is already available.

There has been good acceptance of Google Android based devices, for example the T-Mobile G1 and new Cliq phones. Acer is now doing something like that, but with bigger parts. For ‘data pads’ the price point will probably be under $500, around $350 seems likely at retail or $250 street. The cost of the hardware will be about $120 based upon the OLPC project inspired net-books, with a 100% margin on cost that comes to $240 wholesale. Retailers will add margin to bring SRP up to $350, a price consumers embrace as favourable. Google Android versions would have no additional cost for software licenses while Microsoft versions would add $100 more or about $450 SRP. Premium features will be added later, for example a rugedized case design, fingerprint login, improved hardware to play videos, or increased storage capacity.

Note: this article is the writers personal opinion. It is based upon almost 40 years of experience in small computers and communications, but it is still an opinion.It is presented AS IS. All use is at your own risk.

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