Qualcomm plans new breed of netbooks dubbed “smartbooks”

May 29, 2009 at 8:48 am

Qualcomm SmartbookQualcomm has formally announced that it will release a new class of gadget called smartbooks, which are powered using its Snapdragon chipset. As the name suggests, smartbooks will fit somewhere between the traditional netbook form-factor and a smartphone.

Qualcomm’s 1GHz Snapdragon processor offers the brains and connectivity (both Wi-Fi and cellular 3G, not to mention GPS and Bluetooth) for a smartbook on a single chip, allowing for smaller devices. The device that will be always connected via 3G and boast significantly better battery times than seen in most netbooks. These devices will run Linux or a mobile operating system and last eight to 10 hours on a single battery charge. Whilst most netbooks include Wi-Fi connectivity, 3G or GPS integration is very much an option, if it exists at all.

Qualcomm is encouraging its partners to use the “smartbook” tag and has even launched a promotional website called “Hello Smartbook,” with the message that smartbooks are an all-in-one device. They’ve also got a video on the site which shows people using smartbooks to play games, jotting notes during a meeting, getting directions, conducting video conferencing calls and sending photos.

Larger smartbooks will resemble notebooks or netbooks while smaller smartbooks will look like touchscreen tablets or mobile Internet devices. Smartbook displays will range from 5 inches to 12 inches. Smartbooks don’t require fans for cooling, which allow manufacturers to create streamlined designs. Most smartbooks will weigh less than two pounds and be slimmer than 20 millimetres.

There are a number of manufacturers that have already signed on to develop smartbooks based on the snapdragon chip, amongst these are Asus and Samsung. Qualcomm is expecting to launch 30 products across smartphones and smartbooks by the end of this year.

“Smartbooks represent a step up in functionality from smart phones,” notes Bill Davidson, Qualcomm’s senior vice president of global marketing. A person that likes the e-mail capabilities of a BlackBerry but prefers devices with larger screens will benefit from an “always connected” smartbook, he contends. Netbooks, Davidson argues, have by contrast been positioned as “dumbed down” alternatives to notebooks, creating a negative, rather than positive, association in consumers’ minds.

In some ways, smartbooks are similar to the original vision behind netbooks: a computing appliance that lives off the Web and doesn’t run a traditional operating system or fit in a pocket. Their constant connection to the Web will eventually enable them to shift dynamically between power states and online/offline modes to maximize battery life.

Qualcomm Snapdragon Smartbooks are expected to be formally introduced at the Computex Taipei 2009 show next week (June 2-6). We’re very much looking forward to it.


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