HP, Acer, Dell, and...Google? That's right -- Google could soon join the ranks of those netbook manufacturers. The rumor mill now suggests that a Google-branded netbook will arrive next year, in addition to the Google phone.
TechCrunch's Michael Arrington cites "multiple sources" as saying Google is working directly with at least one computer manufacturer on hardware specs, in the same way that the search giant reportedly dictated hardware and design to HTC for the Nexus One smartphone. The netbook would be branded with Google and sold directly to consumers.
In terms of performance, what would make this netbook so much different than the rest? Arrington doesn't know at this point, but speculates that an ARM processor and Nvidia Tegra graphics chip would be used instead of the usual Intel Atom processor and integrated graphics.
As I've suggested with the Google phone, hardware isn't the important thing. Smartphones and netbooks generally have similar specs. Software is key, but what's potentially the most exciting about Google's rumored smartphone and netbook plans is the idea of the company selling them directly.
That means you're looking at a possible Google Store. It means that Google could advertise its hardware to you every time you do a Web search. As some have suggested, it means Google could maybe subsidize its own tech products with advertising.
It also opens the door to more Google-branded products down the line. Remember, when Google announced Chrome OS, the company said it was being designed for desktop computers as well as notebooks. Imagine a tiny box that hooks up to your monitor, keyboard, and mouse. What if there was a screen on it as well? What if this was also your home theater PC, streaming free and subscription-based content from YouTube and elsewhere?
I'm getting ahead of myself, of course, but if Google is, in fact, planning to directly market and sell a smartphone and netbook with its brand name, I don't see any reason why it would stop there. Brace yourself for the day that Google owns your entire computing experience, from power up to shut down.