Google to give away netbooks?

Google boss Eric Schmidt says companies such as his may subsidise the cost of netbooks in the future.

Google to give away netbooks?

The Google CEO says companies will find new ways to put hardware in the hands of consumers. “What’s particularly interesting about netbooks is the price point,” Schmidt told the Morgan Stanley Technology conference, according to a report on

“Eventually it will make sense for operators and so forth to subsidise the use of those books so they could make services revenue and advertising revenue on their consumption. That’s another new model that’s coming.”

Netbooks are already heavily subsidised in the UK by mobile broadband operators, who discount the hardware for customers prepared to sign lengthy data contracts.

Schmidt’s comments raise the possibility that cloud-computing service providers – such as Google – could adopt a similar model.

Google’s ever-expanding repertoire of services – including Google Docs, Gmail and Calendar – are well suited to netbooks, which don’t have vast amounts of hard disk space to store data locally. Google’s lightweight Chrome web browser is also optimised to run web applications as if they were desktop applications.

There’s even hope that Google’s mobile phone OS, Android, will move up the chain to netbooks, with Asus currently hard at work on an Android-based Eee PC.

In short, Google has all the pieces in place to capitalise from wider adoption of netbooks.

The Google chief is clearly conscious of the shifting tide from traditional PC hardware and the impact that might have on Google’s revenue.

“The fact of the matter is that mobile devices are going to be the majority of the way that people get information,” he claimed. “The argument is relatively simple: You already have them. They’re called your phones.”

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