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Hewlett-Packard on Tuesday said it's studying Google's Android operating system to determine whether it would be useful in PCs and other products, but didn't commit to using the software in any particular device.
HP's comments to InformationWeek came in response to a Wall Street Journal report that said the computer maker is considering swapping Microsoft Windows for Android in some HP mini-laptops, which the industry calls netbooks.
While acknowledging it's studying the OS, a company spokeswoman said HP hadn't committed to using the software in any computer.
"HP is acknowledging that we are studying the Android operating system," the spokeswoman said. "We want to assess the capability that Android may have for the computer and communications industry.
"As to how and when HP might produce any products using the Android OS, we don't comment on any speculation like that."
As the world's largest PC maker, HP's use of Android would be a major boost for the Google-developed OS that's used today in mobile phones. Because Android is open source, any company can download the software at no charge and use it without permission from Google.
Google confirmed that fact Tuesday in calling Android a "free, open source mobile platform" in an e-mail sent following a request for comment by InformationWeek.
"This means that anyone can take the Android platform and add code or download it to create a mobile device without restrictions," a Google spokeswoman said. "The Android smartphone platform was designed from the beginning to scale downward to feature phones and upward to MID [mobile Internet devices] and netbook-style devices."
The use of Android in a netbook isn't new. Asustek Computer said last month that it had dedicated engineers to create an Android mini-notebook, but had not decided whether it would sell it. The system could be completed by the end of the year.
In January, Matthaus Krzykowski and Daniel Hartmann, who run startup Mobile-Facts, compiled Android for an Asustek EEEPC 1000H netbook and got the system running with all the necessary hardware, including graphics, sound, and the wireless card for the Internet. They described their work in an article published by the site VentureBeat.
Netbooks, defined as having screens 10 inches or less and costing less than $500, with many models selling for as little as $300, are the fastest-selling segments of the PC market. While the rest of the market is expected to see a decline in unit sales, global sales of netbooks will grow nearly 80% this year to capture 8% of the total PC sales, according to the latest Gartner forecast.
InformationWeek has published a 360-degree analysis of the first Android-based smartphone. Download the report here (registration required).