Microsoft's reign as kingpin of the netbook operating system world may soon be challenged. According to a report in Digitimes, several hardware makers are preparing new netbooks for the holiday season that ditch Windows and instead use Google's Chrome OS, a highly customized Linux distribution.
According to the report, the first Chrome OS product to land will be a first-party design, with hardware from Ivantek. Google reportedly is following a similar model to the Nexus One with the device and will be selling it exclusively online. It will not ship to traditional retailers.
The netbook's hardware is designed by Ivantek, but only a few details are available at present. The lightweight laptop is expected to employ an ARM processor. ARM has certain energy efficiency advantages over x86 architectures, but currently is not supported by any Windows PC operating system. ARM processors are found in popular smart phones like the iPhone 4 and Samsung Epic 4G (Samsung Galaxy S).
Google is reportedly hoping to initially ship 60k to 70k units.
Acer, who makes the best-selling Acer Aspire One netbook, and Hewlett-Packard, the world's largest computer brand are expected to follow with competitive designs in December, according to parts suppliers. Both vendors will have their hardware manufactured and designed by Quanta Computer.
A fourth manufacturer -- Asustek -- is reportedly eying the market, considering a possible Chrome OS product of its own.
The majority of netbooks currently being sold run lightweight configurations of Windows 7. A handful still use Windows XP, the OS most commonly used on older netbooks. Many have argued that Windows is not an optimal OS for netbooks due to its lack of ARM support, resource demands, and other concerns. However, few cohesive competitors have presented themselves until now.
Chrome OS marks Google's first PC operating system. The internet giant has had tremendous success in the smart phone market and currently owns almost half of the U.S. smart phone market, by far more than any other smart phone OS. In global smart phone OS market share, it is second only to Nokia.
With Google-powered netbooks on the market, suppliers believe that interest could return to netbooks. Netbook sales have been cannibalized by Apple's hot iPad tablet computer. Google is also airing competitive tablets, with a handful of 7-inch entries, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab already on the market.