Next Stop for iPhone OS and Android: Computers?

By  |  Friday, January 2, 2009 at 6:58 pm

iPhone OS LaptopTwo new rumors this week are different in the details but share an interesting overarching theme: TechCrunch is reporting that Apple is working on an iPhone OS-based tablet computer that’s essentially a giant iPod Touch for release this fall, and VentureBeat has a fascinating post that not only shows Google’s Android OS running on an Asus Eee PC but says the OS is hardwired to run on netbooks, and that Android netbooks will likely show up in 2010. We don’t know for sure that Apple will ever release more computer-like devices based on iPhone OS or that Android will migrate to laptops, but both ideas are utterly plausible. More plausible, in fact, than the possibility that both OSes will stay phone-only forever.

And there’s never been a time–in the past fifteen years, at least–when it’s seemed more plausible that upstart OSes could make significant inroads against Windows on general-purpose computing devices. We know from the disappointing platform known as Tablet PC that Windows is not very well suited to running on tablet-style computers. And Windows Vista is so ill-suited for netbooks that Microsoft is keeping XP on the market for netbook manufacturers. Moreover, so much of our computing environments are moving to the Web that Windows’ perennial strong suit, its vast library of applications, doesn’t matter as much as it once did.

It’s not hard to imagine an iPhone OS-based tablet being a knockout: Apple has completed much of the necessary heavy lifting already, including designing a pleasing touch interface and building a strong community of developers who know how to create and sell iPhone OS apps. (Then there’s the fact that iPhone OS is already a variant of the slick, robust computer operating system known as OS X.) And if Android can run satisfactorily on a cell phone, it will surely scream on even the most underpowered of netbooks.

Really, the big questions about iPhone OS tablets and Android netbooks aren’t technical–they have more to do with what consumers are going to want out of their computers over the next few years. It seems unlikely that even the best iPhone OS-powered tablet that Apple could conceivably build would be capable of replacing a standard notebook for many people, but it might be useful enough to find its way into a lot of homes as an all-new type of device–a sort of Amazon Kindle that can do a whole lot more. As for netbooks, I’m still not positive that they’re not a fad rather than a permanent part of the computing landscape, at least in developed nations like the U.S. of A.

In the end, it feels inevitable that the world will have fewer garden-variety Windows computers a few years from now, and more new-wave computing devices of some sort that aren’t necessarily running Microsoft software. But if you’re confident you know what those new-wave computing devices will be like, you’re either a whole lot smarter or a whole lot dumber than I am.

So would you buy an iPhone OS tablet and/or an Android netbook? And if not, what would it take to make them appealing?


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7 Comments For This Post

  1. steveballmer Says:


  2. Ken Says:

    Netbooks will take over. They don’t use much power. Imagine an oversized touch, the battery could last for days running touch os. Put iworks on it and you have what most people need for computing. It would sure beat lugging around a 15″ laptop that needs to be recharged every couple of hours.

  3. Lars Henriksen Says:

    I would absolutely buy an iPhone OS/Android tablet-ish computer. Both my girlfriend and I have our laptops in the living room (Thinkpad and MacBook) which are VERY overpowered compared to what we mostly use them for: Web browsing. So I have really been looking for a pc which is basically just a magazine sized touch based browser, which would be very useful for us (not a tablet – no need for a physical keyboard). And I’m sure the iPhone OS and Android would be very suitable for this.
    Additionally, the popularity of netbooks really shows that consumers are ready for such limited devices.

  4. calling cards Says:

    This phone OS could be considered an evolution of the 'thin client' idea. Like traditional thin client computers these OS' have no hard or optical drives, which means they remotely connect to server-based apps.

  5. Michael Martin Says:

    I would absolutely get an Android OS on a netbook especially after a year of it maturing and being debugged in the open source realm.

    ,Michael Martin

  6. Tom Says:

    Since first seeing the iphone I have been waiting for this very thing. A true mobile os for the iphone. I don’t need all the bells and whistles of the full MAC OS 10.x. It has a lot of the basics already, just needs a couple more tweaks and there would be peace on earth……

  7. Woody Brown Says:

    I believe we are on the ‘ground floor’ of the next generation of personal and business computing OS’: iPhone and Android are baseline products that will lead the charge into the next decade. This phone OS could be considered an evolution of the ‘thin client’ idea. Like traditional thin client computers these OS’ have no hard or optical drives, which means they remotely connect to server-based apps. Many companies have a mix of thick and thin clients, and now they will have one more thin client type of computing option to consider for deployment. I don’t see any one of these three computing options replacing one of the other options, but I can imagine the traditional PC with internal drives will have its market share challenged by Google Android type tablets. And unless Apple changes its traditional ‘closed’ policy, Android OS has a better chance of broad market proliferation than does the iPhone OS. Move over Microsoft!

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