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Summary:

More insights on Qualcomm’s smartbook products arrive today, courtesy of a DigiTimes interview. Earlier today, they spoke with Luis Pineda, senior vice president of marketing and product management for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies (QCT). Here are some interview quotes that jumped out at me, along with my […]

qualcomm-smartbookMore insights on Qualcomm’s smartbook products arrive today, courtesy of a DigiTimes interview. Earlier today, they spoke with Luis Pineda, senior vice president of marketing and product management for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies (QCT). Here are some interview quotes that jumped out at me, along with my own thoughts:

“[W]hen Qualcomm looked at the netbook platform, our attitude was that these devices needed to gain more in connectivity.” – This is where Qualcomm can offer a competitive advantage; their newest Snapdragon product handles the processing, video and wireless connectivity with a single chip. Connectivity support includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and 3G technologies. Fewer components are needed to offer a full computing experience while at the same time reducing space, heat and costs to build.

“[T]he starting point for smartbooks is a device that has all the features of smartphones that consumers love best, such as instant-on and 3G wireless support for connectivity everywhere. We also envision a device that is highly portable and provides all day battery usage.” – Instant-on in this case is really a device that’s always on but in a very low power state. Most smartphones of today employ this technique and it’s something I’d love to see in a small, notebook-like device. Qualcomm can offer the all-day battery usage claim because the CPU can run at 1 GHz using 500 mW of power. By way of comparison: An Intel Atom can run at a faster 1.66 GHz clock speed, but will use between 2 and 2.5 Watts to do so.

Smartbooks will combine the best features of the smartphone and netbook platform.” – I know I’m ready for just such a device, but I think it’s going to be a hard sell for mainstream consumers. Netbooks have evolved into small, cheap notebooks for most folks, while smartphones continue to mature as capable devices in their own right. Is there a market for another, “in between” device?

Smartbooks will be based on Linux.” – That’s pretty much a given, since these devices are based on the ARM architecture. The only other viable options would be Microsoft’s Windows CE or Windows Mobile; the former might not be robust enough nor offer variety in consumer apps while the latter doesn’t support screen resolutions that smartbooks can offer. Aside from my “tweener” device concern above, the operating system itself is my other concern. Linux is definitely capable for this type of device, but for your average consumer to use it on a device, it needs to be slick, intuitive and have a familiar feel to it. Early Linux builds customized for netbooks weren’t and as a result, Microsoft’s market share of Windows on netbooks has jumped to over 80 percent from 10 percent since February of 2008.

“We see the primary channel being wireless carriers.” – No argument there, and that’s going to help with the end-user price. I’d anticipate these devices to be offered free or for under $100 with a carrier subsidy and data plan. Of course, the challenge will be for the OEMs to develop an appealing product that the carrier wants to subsidize and sell. Smartbooks will have to complement smartphones as well, otherwise the carrier will just be selling one device over another. That tells me that very few (if any) smartbooks will likely support cellular voice. Voice over IP is another story, of course.

  1. I love the idea. I currently have three devices. I have a cell phone with massive battery to handle about a hundred calls a day, a windows mobile smartphone to check emails when on the run, and a netbook to do stuff on the run (often with the smartphone functioning as my modem). Would love to carry a single device that would do it all….using a Bluetooth headset and/or speakerphone to handle all my calls…with a keyboard just big enough to touch type on. Years ago I carried a Jornada 680 Windows CE unit…and the 3G part was all that I really needed.

    I don’t know what the larger market is for these Smartbooks…but I will line up to be an early adopter because it will suit my needs very well.

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  2. This really seems like a hole in my equipment line-up. I have desktop and laptop units for the usual home and fixed-mobile kinds of work. I have also a Treo for voice and e-Mail. I would love something that offered more oomph than the Treo has, and less bulk than the laptop has. It would fit in my usual carry-around bag and I suppose I could even manage some sort of back-up battery or charger for those really long days.

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  3. John in Norway Wednesday, June 3, 2009

    If I bought a device every time one of these companies touted faster, smaller, quieter, cooler, less power hungry devices I’d have a house full of unused broken promises … oh, wait.

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  4. I’ll be waiting for a Smartbook with a 10 inch screen and nearly full sized keyboard they shouldn’t just be thinking in terms of very small screens. I waited patiently for 7 or 8 months for Netbooks finally reach a 10 inch’s screen size.

    I hope Smartbooks quickly reach 10 inch’s and have full 3G modem and cell phone voice support. All kinds of computer and telecommunication development will be done using such devices.

    All kinds of computer and telecommunication devices will be deployed using the same.

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  5. Smartbook vendors should include all smartphone hardware (3G, GPS, accelerometer, compass, etc.), to support cell phone calls, SMS, location-based services, automatic screen rotation, etc.

    That would REALLY differentiate smartbooks from the current generation of netbooks and make them VERY attractive to mobile operators, because mobile operators would be able to generate revenue from phone calls, SMS, location-based apps & services, etc., in addition to basic data contracts.

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  6. basic messaging ability, full internet experience and potential always on connectivity(just let me pop my sim card in there like its another cellphone), decent multimedia abilities, the form factor shown in the pic attached to this article(old school palmtops/sony vaio p-ish), along with good battery life.. if they can deliver this, i will sooooo be getting a snapdragon product.

    i dont care what operating system its running, give it a good user experience and let’s see if it can catch on.. i really want this to work. i would love a device like this, with a well designed, pleasant and lightweight OS that doesnt require a supercomputer to run.

    that being said, i still fear the “wait..this isn’t windows?” curse to hit it…

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  7. There are several devices out there that almost make this mark already, so we should be close:

    a) The Flybook: nice size, built in 3G and voice, but too costly
    b) The HTC Advantage: OK size (no built-in keyboard), built in 3G and voice, but again too costly
    c) The MIDs (Aigo, Viliv, UMID) now have 3G (no voice) and are coming down in price
    d) The Nokia tablet (upcoming N900), good size, 3G, keyboard, but no voice..
    e) The OQO and Sony UX looked pretty good but are gone now :-(

    So I think the Qualcomm guys have it right with the smartbook concept. I hope they materialize it soon…

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  8. If they made a slightly narrower and shorter version of the Sony P it would be great! Something about 7.5″ x 4″ with a touch type keyboard would be the cats meow!

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  9. I’ve been waiting for these devices for too long now. I’ve been pining for a decent PDA since my old Sony CLie packed in. The modern Smartphones are just terrible at doing PDA type stuff – I’m currently suffering an N958G that can’t do half the organisational stuff my old PDA could. I’m looking at these Smartbook devices as the logical successors to the “instant-on” Palm-type PDAs, with added software capabilities, storage and keyboard. Of course, I’ll be waiting for the touchscreen versions with handwriting recognition ;)
    Q

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  10. The concept of a smartbook including mobile phone service, bluetooth, wife, removable storage via SD or micro SD with a near full size keyboard and decent size screen with a flash OS will be a HUGE success. I think Windows Mobile will be all over this and be there to deliver. Should be very interesting to see what others such as Google Android do as well.

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