Android Netbook Appears: Lookout Wintel

One of the first Android netbooks is being billed as an “easy to use full functioning PC” and presents tangible evidence  of a  shift away from the Wintel architecture that has dominated PC computing for decades. It certainly looks like a netbook and boasts standard apps such as email, word processor and others which can be found on the Internet.

The Alpha 680 appeared on Guangzhou Skytone Transmission Technologies Co. Ltd’s web site last week with full laundry list of specs. At the heart of the Alpha 680 is the ARM11 CPU used in a wide variety of applications ranging from automotive to PDAs. Android, the open source OS backed by Google, has generated considerable excitement in the netbook community as a serious threat to Windows in the netbook arena initially.

Last week, Computerworld blogger Seth Weintraub spotted the Alpha 680 on Ghanzhou’s web site and labeled it “a glorifed cell phone without the glory.” By that, he meant its weak specifications – a 7-inch display while most netbooks now have 10 inch or better, 128 MB of memory while most now have 1 GB, and only 1 GB of storage upgradable to 4 GB when most netbooks now have hard disk up to 250 GB.

Guangzhou Skytone has six other netbooks in the Alpha product line, several of which run Linux. The company’s  mission, according to its about page is “to provide a series of more affordable Internet access terminals…” And indeed that may be all the Alpha 680 or a netbook needs to be given standard apps such as full email, social networking and word processing apps can be used free in the Internet cloud.

Microsoft Windows relies on apps that based on each computer. What’s more, Android is free to hardware makers, giving them an immediate cost advantage. Windows XP Home Edition typically adds $15 to the cost of netbooks.

A long follow-up story in Computerworld this morning included an interview with Gangzhou co-founder Nixon Wu who said the Alpha 680 will cost about $250 which may not be enough of price differential to lure buyers away from traditional Windows-based netbooks, but it is clearly a sign of things to come. Indeed, ARM told Computerworld that as many as ten ARM-based netbooks could be on the market by the third quarter.

Prototypes of the Alpha 680 will be out in June with market ready units to follow a month or two later units , according to the Computerworld story.

Photos source: Gangzhou Skytonegangzhou1

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