Small new netbook computers from Acer Inc. will come with Google Inc.'s Android operating system if buyers desire, instead of Windows from Microsoft Corp.

The move by Acer, the world's third-largest PC maker, could raise Android's chances of becoming a widely used alternative to Windows on mobile computers.

Because Android, originally designed for mobile phones, is freely distributed by Google, netbooks running the software would cost less, Acer executive Jim Wong said Tuesday at Computex, a huge computer show in Taiwan. He would not give a specific figure. Wong also praised Android's fast boot-up time.

Netbooks, which are inexpensive little laptops primarily designed for using the internet, originally were sold with another free operating system, Linux. Microsoft's current operating system, Vista, was seen as too expensive and slow for those computers. But Microsoft regained control of the budding market by licensing the older Windows XP to manufacturers for a low price.

Microsoft's next operating system, Windows 7, is being geared for netbooks as well as larger computers. Several PC companies used the Computex show to highlight coming models based on Windows 7, including Taiwan's AsusTek Computer Inc.

Android installed on Rogers smartphones

On Tuesday, Rogers Wireless announced plans to sell two smartphones built with Taiwan-based HTC that will come with Android preinstalled. Named the Magic and Dream, the phones will be available for $149 on a three-year voice and data plan.

PC Magazine analyst Sascha Segan said there are only three mobile phones with the Android operating system, including the two HTC phones and a Samsung.

"They're just the vanguard of a gigantic army," Segan said from New York. "These are the little scouts who are coming in front of the massive infantry."

Segan said Google has plans for 20 Android-powered mobile phones by the end of the year.

At this point, HTC's Dream and Magic don't outshine the iPhone or BlackBerry's Bold, he said.

The Android operating system may end up being more of a threat to Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system, now in a number of cellphones such as the Samsung Instinct and LG's Dare, that have some "apps" but aren't smartphones, Segan said.

with files from Canadian Press