HP launches first mainstream Android netbookHewlett-Packard is launching a Google Android-based netbook. Shipping under the Compaq brand, HP calls it the AirLife 100. It will debut in the United Arab Emirates (no word on a U.S. launch). The big question: Is Android for netbooks a good computing solution?

ITP.net scooped the story, noting that this isn't the first netbook to be officially launching with Android. A Chinese company beat HP to that honor. Still, it is the first 'mainstream' netbook to feature Google's quirky OS. The idea is that it's going to be a "new way of connecting to the essentials of online life" at least, according to HP.

What's new? Well, hardware wise, nothing spectacular. Sporting a  10.1" screen, a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, WiFi, nearly full-size keyboard and a 16GB SSD internal storage, the AirLife 100 is petty standard. There is, however, a customized touch interface. The idea is to merge the netbook with the smarphone to create a sort of hybrid-machine.

According to Charl Snyman, VP and general manager of HP Personal Systems Group, EMEA:
"The browser has become the desktop for many people, and the new Compaq AirLife is the next evolution of a mobile computer that is streamlined specifically for the web...this new type of user lives life online and no longer measures computing speeds and feeds, but rather friends, people and online social ranks."
The AirLife 100 is going to be retailing come Spring 2010. But there seems to be a reason why it's not coming to the USA. According to ITP.net  it's being sold  "exclusively through Telefónica but pricing has not yet been confirmed. The two companies are also working to offer a customised touch interface for easy navigation of music, entertainment, information and access to the Telefónica store and services."

Oddly enough, Telefónica doesn't operate in the UAE.

Yet Another Linux for Netbooks?

But the real story is whether this is a good idea or not. The Linux-based Android has been developed pretty much exclusively for mobile-phones and handheld devices. The real question is whether added a larger screen and a full-sized keyboard would enhance your mobile experience. The screen is touch, so presumably, you could enjoy the traditional Android experience on the netbook. But I'm not sure if I'd be happy browsing the web inside a cramped Android browser.

Also: With Google's Chrome OS on the horizon, it seems odd that HP would want to ship a netbook with Android and not wait for a more 'official' netbook operating system. If, like Snyman says, the browser is the desktop --- then why would you ever want to use such a constrained mobile browser?

Granted, Flash is coming to the Android platform sooner or later, but the best kind of mobile experience on the netbook should be one that you're used to on a laptop, but correctly scaled for the smaller device. A scaled-up smart-phone doesn't seem like a 'smart' experience.

The AirLife 100's hardware specs are actually pretty beefy, so I think it'd be better off running Canonical's Ubuntu. But maybe the plan is to slice the price of the device super low. Snapdragon plus Android could mean a sub-$200 pricetag.