ACER’S announcement that it will start selling a laptop pre-loaded with Google’s Android operating system will come as a blow to Microsoft. For the last quarter of a century, the firm founded by Bill Gates has dominated the operating software space with a monopoly that has earned awe and anger in equal measure. <br /><br />But Google’s success in pitching its tents on the software giant’s home turf – an action that would have been unthinkable just five years ago – shows that the demise of Microsoft is accelerating. In web search, it lags a poor third, while its approach to software sales, one which admittedly saw it thrive in the 20th Century, is out of date. <br /><br />Acer, the world’s third biggest PC maker, is installing Google’s free Android on one of its netbooks – cheap, relatively unsophisticated and ultra-portable laptops. These machines are for accessing the internet and not much else, which is why they have no need for expensive operating systems or rich software suites like Microsoft’s Office.<br /><br />Initially, PC makers never intended netbooks – which retail for as little as £140 – to be a replacement for desktop computers or fully-featured laptops. They were meant to be a companion, a cheap-and-cheerful product that could be thrown in a bag without worrying about the consequences. But the recession has changed that; the netbook is a product that captures the zeitgeist. According to Intel’s European sales boss Christian Morales, they account for around 16 per cent of total laptop sales globally, and represent one in every five notebooks sold in Europe. <br /><br />The problem for Microsoft is that, with a fast broadband connection, there is very little that can’t be done on the internet. You can send emails, check the news, catch up with friends on social networks, listen to music, and complete office tasks using an online suite of applications, such as Google Docs. In fact, journalists at The Telegraph and Guardian media groups already use Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office.<br /><br />Computer geeks will tell you that the power has moved away from the PC desktop and into the “cloud”, a reference to the fact that all the processing seems to be happening in the ether. Of course, the truth is far less fluffy; huge data centres churn through the terabytes of data we use while on the internet. <br /><br />If the desktop is losing power, then it follows that Microsoft – the company which has monopolised it most successfully – will be hit the hardest. And its loss is Google’s gain.