Netbooks have ruled the world of entry level computing for the past 18 months or so but could be facing their most formidable opponents, known as Smartbooks, since they appeared on the market in 2007.
Smartbooks are nothing new though, non x86 ultra portable computers like the fantastic 3Com Ergo Audrey or the Palm Foleo have been a common sight for the past decade but Qualcomm-backed Smartbooks could well take over Netbooks. Here are five reasons why.
(1) Smartbooks will be cheaper
The cheapest new laptop on the market, as it stands now, is a smartbook, not a netbook. The EPC MiniBook comes with a 400Mhz CPU backed by a Linux OS and costs only £120. The device which truly launched the Netbook revolution, the XO or OLPC laptop, was a smartbook in essence.
It is likely that Qualcomm's smartbooks will be as cheap, if not cheaper. This is due to the fact that the platform is already a mature one and Qualcomm will be using economies of scale to keep prices down. The company is already using a 45nm line to produce the Snapdragon chips to be used in the smartbooks and in smartphones as well.
(2) Competition is more ruthless
Because Smartbooks are set to be build using the same blueprint as netbooks and smartphones, it is likely that more manufacturing partners will be recruited and big names like Asus, Compal, Foxconn, High Tech Computer (HTC), Inventec, Toshiba, and Wistron have already signed up.
This means that competition will be ruthless and keep prices down. Furthermore, expect Smartbooks to evolve faster than netbooks. Right now, Intel dominates the netbook platform and as far as innovation is concerned, nothing much has been happening over the last 12 months (ed: what about Nvidia's ION).
(3) Smartbooks are as powerful as Netbooks
Qualcomm's QSD8672 chip which is set to be released later this year will have two cores running at 1.5GHz and will give current and future Atom processors a run for their money. Add in HSPA+ (up to 28mbps) connectivity, native GPS and Bluetooth support, high definition video recording and playback, Wi-Fi and mobile TV technologies plus support for screen resolutions of up to 1440 x 900 and you have a package that may rival even entry level traditional laptops.
(4) Smartbooks are build like Smartphones
Because Smartbooks will be build like smartphones, you can expect way longer battery life due to the much smaller power consumption (on idle, standby and full working mode), an instant power on mode and a much smaller power dissipation (no active cooling needed and hence a thinner profile).
On top of that Smartbooks won't suffer from the same issues as netbooks, namely restrictions placed on hardware by Microsoft and Intel to protect their marketshare and profits. Also most of them will have embedded 3G modem and may include typical smartphone features like accelerometer, GPS, the ability to make phone calls or send SMS.
(5) Netbooks Are Only Miniature Laptops
For all their worth, Netbooks are only smaller laptops and the recent trend has been to add more features and ramp up the price. The original Asus EEE PC laptop was sold for under £200 now, the majority of Netbooks are sold around the £300 mark. Furthermore, most of them now carry Windows XP OS with a 160GB hard disk drive and 10-inch screens being the standard.
This is a far cry from what Netbooks were supposed to be in the first place and carry the same weaknesses as their bigger counterparts, that is, that they were never devised to be pure mobile platforms. Smartbooks on the other hand are a different breed altogether.