Wednesday, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) may design mini-PCs called netbooks running on Google Inc.'s Linux-based Android operating system, a move that could threaten the legacy of Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows operating system, Wall Street Journal reported.

The journal reported that Palo Alto, California-based Hewlett-Packard's programmers are currently testing Android system, originally developed for cell phones, for the prospective netbook.

A netbook is a class of small laptop computer designed for wireless communication and access to the internet. Primarily designed for web browsing and e-mailing, netbooks rely heavily on the Internet for remote access to web-based applications and are targeted increasingly at cloud computing users who require a less powerful client computer. Netbooks typically run either on Linux or Windows XP operating systems rather than more resource-intensive operating systems like Windows Vista. The devices range in size from below 5 inches to over 13, typically weigh 2 to 3 pounds or approximately 1 kg and are often significantly cheaper than general purpose laptops.

According to Deloitte, as of the start of 2009, the established definition of a netbook was a notebook computer with a low-powered x86-compatible processor compatible with PC standard software, small screen no larger than 10 inches, small keyboard, equipped with wireless connectivity, lightweight under three pounds and no optical disk drive. Netbooks are typically low cost, relative to other notebooks.

Android is a software platform and operating system for mobile devices, based on the Linux kernel developed by Google and later the Open Handset Alliance. It allows developers to write managed code in the Java language, controlling the device via Google-developed Java libraries. Applications written in C and other languages can be compiled to ARM native code and run, but Google does not officially support this development path.

The unveiling of the Android platform on November 5, 2007 was announced with the founding of the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of 48 hardware, software, and telecom companies devoted to advancing open standards for mobile devices. Google released most of the Android code under the Apache license, a free-software and open source license.

Net savvy engineers reworked Android operating system to run on x86 CPUs such as the Atom. The operating system runs on more than 10 billion ARM processor based smartphones. ARM processor consumes less electric power and costs less that Atom processor. The report did not clarify as to whether the operating system is being tried and tested on Atom or ARM processor based system.

Google offers Android free of charge and does not benefit from it. However, it hopes to create a formidable challenge to Microsoft in its bread and butter business.

Microsoft's Vista operating system has some disadvantages considering the space it occupies. The software giant is planning to sell a customized version of Windows 7 operating system suitable for netbooks.

A recent market research indicates that HP ranks third in the netbook market, behind Acer Inc. and Asustek. The company, however, looks to take a lead through innovative models such as 2140 Mini.

Asustek Computer Inc., which came out with the first netbook in 2007, has said that it may build an Android netbook. Dell Inc., on its part, is considering building an Android-based smartphone.

A recent survey predicts that netbook market is poised to reach anywhere between 20 million and 30 million units in 2009.

Earlier in February HP said that it has already received the beta version of Windows 7 Ultimate to run on its existing netbooks.

Hewlett-Packard is currently trading at $32.68, up $0.62 or 1.93% on a volume of 12.05 million shares on the NYSE.

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