Semiconductors giant Qualcomm could well dislodge netbooks as the hottest consumer products on the market with a new device category called smartbooks.
While smartbooks and netbooks may be sharing the same form factor, they differ significantly when it comes to the technology used. Smartbooks will only use ARM-based processors combined with a Linux-based operating system and will integrate 3G. Netbooks in comparison use Windows XP OS and Intel-based platform. Both will come with a 10 to 12-inch screen, a full keyboard and WiFi.
Qualcomm Smartbooks will use the manufacturer's own Snapdragon chipset which is already used in at least one smartphone, the Toshiba TG01, the device that was released by the Japanese company back in February 2009. A 1GHz Snapdragon processor is said to be as fast as Intel's own Atom processor - which is used in so many Netbooks - but consumes only a quarter of the power.
Furthermore, Snapdragon platform include GPS and cellular modem. The latest QSD8672 chip will be made up of two cores running at 1.5GHz and will include HSPA+ (up to 28mbps), GPS, Bluetooth, high definition video recording and playback, Wi-Fi and mobile TV technologies according to a Qualcomm press release issued late last year. The processor also supports screen resolutions of up to 1440x900 pixels.
In conclusion, a smartbook will be a combination of a smartphone and a netbook. One can expect these devices to be sold at a lower price compared to a netbook and will have a much longer battery life (8 hours or more should be common), run far cooler, instant power on and it is likely that an Android-based Smartbook will be available some time this year.
Qualcomm has already said that 15 manufacturers are going to use the Snapdragon chip in over 30 devices but did not elaborate on the proportion of those who would be releasing Smartbooks.
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We have been dreaming of such a device for years now - a proper reincarnation of the Psion MX or the HP Jornada. The fact that the operating system is becoming less and less relevant (due partly to the SAAS paradigm) combined with the level of flexibility offered by a mobile platform means that Intel could well have a fight on its hands.
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