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Report: HP may build Android netbooks

Hewlett-Packard Co. may build netbook PCs running Google Inc.'s Linux-based Android operating system, the Wall Street Journal reported today.

The Journal cited unnamed sources in its report. Satjiv Chahil, a vice president in HP's PC division, declined to comment on whether the world's largest PC maker will sell either netbooks or smartphones running Android but confirmed that HP is “studying” the free operating system.

HP did not immediately reply to a Computerworld request for comment.

Asustek Computer Inc., meanwhile, has said that it may build an Android netbook. Meanwhile, computer maker Dell Inc. is considering whether to build an Android-based smartphone.

A crucial question the Journal article did not answer is whether HP is testing Android on netbooks based on Intel Corp.'s Atom processor or the ARM processor dominant in smartphones.

Atom is a low-wattage, low-priced CPU that is used on virtually all netbooks today, whether they run Windows XP or some version of Linux.

The Android operating system, officially, does not run on x86 CPUs such as the Atom, but some hackers and even some journalists have gotten the operating system to do so.

In contrast, Android already runs on ARM-based smartphones that began shipping last year.

The ARM processor, used in more than 10 billion mobile phones to date, uses less electricity and costs even less than the Atom processor.

Ian Drew, senior vice president of U.K.-based ARM Holdings, the developer of the ARM chip technology, told Computerworld last week that he “expects to see six to 10 ARM netbooks this year starting in Q3.”

All will run the Linux operating system or a Linux derivative such as Android, and they will boast eight to 12 hours of battery life and cost about $200, Drew said.

According to the most recent research, HP ranks third in the netbook market, behind Acer Inc. and Asustek.

But it has been one of the more aggressive companies in deploying new, innovative models, such as its 2140 Mini, which is aimed at big businesses.

HP isn't likely to abandon Windows. It said in February that it has already received the beta version of Windows 7 Ultimate to run on its existing netbooks. It expects to ship netbooks running at least three different flavors of Windows 7.

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