SAN FRANCISCO – Hewlett-Packard Co is studying uses for Google Inc's Android operating system, but the world's top PC maker stopped short of saying it had decided to adopt the fledgling software in its products.
The free, open-source Android operating system is now used on smartphones but is being designed to support all kinds of devices. Many analysts view the Android as a viable platform for netbooks, the low-cost, stripped-down laptops that have become one of the hottest PC segments.
Any move by Android into the PC space would be a direct challenge to Microsoft and its dominant Windows operating system.
Many in the industry, including Microsoft itself, are anticipating the release of laptops running Android, although no PC maker has yet publicly committed to it.
An HP spokeswoman said only that company was studying Android to "understand all of the OS choices in the marketplace that might be used by our competitors, or that might possibly be of value to our customers too."
"We want to assess the capabilities that Android might present for the computer and communications industries."
The Wall Street Journal, citing sources, reported HP is testing Android for a possible netbook. HP currently sells netbooks that run both Windows XP and the open-source Linux operating system.
Microsoft's Vista operating system is too bulky to run on many netbooks, so the software giant made its older XP OS available on the devices, where it is now the dominant platform.
Microsoft will sell a version of its forthcoming Windows 7 operating system specially tailored for netbooks. In January, the software developer partly blamed netbooks for weaker-than-expected quarterly profits. Analysts say the company makes only half as much on its netbook software as it does for a standard notebook.
Android is used on smartphones like HTC Corp's G1. Chipmaker Freescale, which recently began making chips for netbooks, plans to expand its offering to include chipsets for Android.
Analysts estimate that global shipments of netbooks will be between 20 million and 30 million units in 2009.
Shares of Palo Alto, California-based HP closed down 6 cents at $32.06 on the New York Stock Exchange.