Google, Microsoft fall short in netbooks--and other areas

James Wong, a senior VP at No. 3 PC maker Acer, let slip this week that Acer already has a prototype Android-based desktop, an interesting revelation following so closely on the heels of HP's admission that it, too, is evaluating the Google-backed open source OS on netbooks. But that doesn't mean that either HP or Acer is ready to drop Windows in favor of Android.

CNET reports that while Acer plans to use Android as the basis for its upcoming smartphone, it just doesn't feel that Android is quite ready yet for netbooks:

"For a netbook, you really need to be able to view a full web for the total internet experience," Wong said. "And Android is not that yet."

The problem, at least when it comes to Microsoft and Google, is one of emphasis. While Microsoft tends to concentrate more on the desktop computing aspects of a netbook, Google's Android focuses almost solely on the Internet and communications side of things. But what's needed is a netbook OS that can handle both aspects equally well. As Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci says:

"Android in my opinion is for communications," he said. "And Windows comes at the market from the computing side. An ideal solution would offer both."

It's the same battle being played out in enterprise cloud computing. Do you go with the enterprise-savvy Internet-challenged Microsoft or the Internet-savvy, enterprise-challenged Google? And why can't there be a palatable middle ground?

Google's made some strides recently with the updates to its App Engine, especially in terms of the Secure Data Connector, which enables enterprises to tie their on-premises data to cloud-based applications. The result is that Google's cloud is slowing becoming more enterprise-like. Microsoft's Azure, of course, comes at it from the other end, promising to make Microsoft's strong stable of enterprise apps more cloud-like--eventually.

But in the end, enterprises need both: A platform that works equally well on premises and in the cloud, enabling them to seamlessly move from one to the other as business needs dictate. The question is who can enterprises turn to today: Microsoft, which seems to have just discovered the importance of the Internet; or Google, who doesn't understand enterprise fundamentals like privacy and encryption?

Like with netbooks, the right answer today is neither. But it will be interesting to see who shores up their weak side first.

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