While some folks are still trying to figure out what smartbooks are supposed to be, I think Tim Bajarin is on the right track. He penned a post at PC Mag that’s right in line with my thoughts, called “Smartbooks: The New Netbooks.” In it, Tim […]

qualcomm-smartbookWhile some folks are still trying to figure out what smartbooks are supposed to be, I think Tim Bajarin is on the right track. He penned a post at PC Mag that’s right in line with my thoughts, called “Smartbooks: The New Netbooks.” In it, Tim illustrates a key difference — one that reiterates the fact that I could easily use a smartbook in lieu of a netbook — an always-on Internet connection and a browser:

“[A] smartbook may look like a netbook, but it’s ultimately designed to be more of an always-on connected device, with browser and Web- or cloud-based apps and services tied to what will be a complete set of telecom-related solutions.

While netbooks really do need the Windows eco-system that delivers compatibility with Windows apps and peripherals, a smartbook’s real value is its connection to the Internet and Web apps and services; it does not need Windows or an X86-based processor. Instead, these smartbooks can have various versions of ARM processors and even different operating systems, such as Linux, as long as they can deliver a solid and easy-to-use connection to the Web and all that it has to offer.”

Nearly all of my time on a netbook is in the browser and online. However, there are times when I power down my Wi-Fi radio in order to save some battery life. In a case like that, I rely on Google Gears for some offline mail, blogging or RSS reading. While I could (and often) do the same activities with smartphones like my iPhone or Pre, I’m far more effective with a larger screen and a full keyboard. That’s where a smartbook comes in to play — web work on the go. Given that these devices are expected to run on energy efficient ARM processors, like both of my smartphones, they should last all day on a single charge. And these devices are better suited to subsidies from carriers who can provide that wireless broadband service for a web-based device.

Will you be able to watch high-definition video or play complex, graphically intense games on a smartbook? Not as well as you could on a full notebook. But that’s not what smartbooks are all about. They’re about accessing the net for basic content creation and consumption using web services and apps. Sort of like what we thought netbooks would be, until we all thought we wanted cheap little laptops.

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  1. turn.self.off Monday, August 3, 2009

    that will depend on how much of the current netbooks they will bring with them.

    If we are talking 10″+ screens and harddrives at $400+, the change of cpu will have minimal impact.

    now get them into the $200 or lower range, and things may well be interesting.

    sadly, the first smartbook to market, the touchbook, seems to head for $400 space…

    1. Do you mean the TouchBook that started shipping today? That’s priced at $299 and since it has a detachable slate, I suspect is more expensive than a clamshell-styled device. Since these are pretty much useless without a wireless signal, I’d expect to see them subsidized for a net out-of-pocket hardware cost of $99 or less. At least, that’s what I’m hoping! ;)

    2. $299 for the screen and such alone, $399 if you also want the keyboard and extra batteries that provides…

      and how useless a smartbook will be without net, that will depend on the software included. Just because it do not run windows do not make it useless…

    3. My bad on the TouchBook pricing. I didn’t see that the keyboard was an add-on. Even so, that’s still not a good representation of what we should expect from smartbooks in general.

      “and how useless a smartbook will be without net, that will depend on the software included”

      Oh no, that’s what turned netbooks into little laptops — not something I want to see repeated with smartbooks. :)

  2. @Kevin,

    I think both Tim and you have hit the nail squarely on the head. Smartbooks are targeted at the converging hardware, internet, and telecommunications industries. Native applications will not be needed as long as the services are offered in the cloud. I’ll predict embedded phone capabilities as a standard offering and you have a killer voice and data bundle. Google sees this….the Chrome OS is browser based. The telecom industry sees the opportunity, and the computer industry is beginning to wake up to the opportunity as well.

    The netbook manufacturers went the wrong direction with netbooks in my opinion.

    My $.02.



  3. I will be controversial a bit this time. This is an illusion that the industry is suffering from. A mix-up of size and functionality. Geeks tend seeing things bigger or smaller than consumers.

    Netbooks brought the laptops into everyone’s life, with an affordable price and mobility most us never had before. With time laptops of 12″ and netbooks of 10-11″ might converge, but that will happen with the later adopting the netbooks standards.

    As to the Smartbooks, I may be in a minority opinion but this is a MID segment being read wrongfully by tech geeks. People will want everything that you have stated – no dependency on OS apps, web apps, cloud, … but with cell capability and MID size. Moorestown like horse-power. This is why I think so strongly lately that Google is missing the point with two types of OS – Android and Chrome where they should converge and aim not at Netbooks but the soon to arrive next gen MIDs.

    Smartbooks in my opinion will not work. With a netbook size I do want to have a “real” (!) OS with everything on top. You will never be able to convince me otherwise :)


    1. turn.self.off tal Monday, August 3, 2009

      i fear its wrong to say people want horsepower x or size y, what they want is for it to perform some task(s) to their satisfaction.

      take those pre-existing tasks, add some new ones, and then market the whole package to saturation.

      oh, and get it into the hands of the stars. I cant help think that the blackberry became popular because it showed up on paparazzi photos of sports and media stars (with subtexts like “is xyz sending sizzling mails to some lover we dont know about, on that blackberry xyz is holding?”).

  4. A couple of nitpicks on this article:

    Why is the Windows ecosystem needed on netbooks like the author claims? If people are really using them 90%+ online, all you need is a browser. Linux tried and failed at this.

    “Even different operating systems”: If it’s anything other than x86, Windows won’t run on it so it will HAVE to have a different operating system. Not that Microsoft couldn’t whip up something based on CE, of course.

    Call me crazy but I’d rather carry a netbook or “smart-pmp” with free wireless than be tied to a device and a data plan. I don’t need to be online 24/7 in every location in the country. At least not yet.

  5. I want a smartbook, and here are my requirements: No connection what-so-ever with Microsoft, an open-source operating system will do just fine. I would like a 9″ screen that is instant-on (like a PDA). It must be totally silent, no cooling fan and no spinning HD (8GB SSD would be enough). It must be a very capable internet device because that is its primary function. It must have a card reader and USB. I don’t need a lot of horsepower because I already have a house full of computers to do the heavy lifting. Hey, wait a minute, I already have 2 Dell Mini 9’s that do all of that except for the instant-on. And yet, if somebody can build that smartbook for $200 I’ll run right over to the grocery store and pick one up.

  6. A mobile OS on something to big for ur pocket, what is this the 90’s all over (*cough* Windows CE)?

  7. Stephen Feger Monday, August 3, 2009

    Netbooks, smartbooks, MIDs, UMPCs, etc…

    Essentially all the same thing with minor differences.

    Connectivity is the key. Then after that’s established, the question becomes what you do with that connectivity.

    iPhone set the standard on the low end (power and size). So what *doesn’t* it do because of either its form factor or its processing power. Right now I’m not sure.

    I’m typing this on a Windows XP based Dell Vostro A90 (Mini 9) tethered to my Verizon Wireless Windows Mobile Smartphone (can’t stand AT&T). It works well and it’s portable (VERY portable). But it’s still no iPhone.

    I should have the Always Innovating tablet/netbook in a few days, if I can tether that to my phone, we can test your theory Kevin. But I still have my doubts on Smartbooks.

  8. Weird. One of the early selling points behind a Personal Computer was exactly that – that it was a stand-alone device, fully self-contained, unlike the ‘dumb’ stations and the need for connection to a mainframe computer that had been the case in the past. And notebook computers further expanded on the benefits of a fully self-contained device.

    Now we’re waxing poetical about computers that rely almost entirely about being connected to the net (mainframe) to access more than a basic OS and much of its software? And that all assumes 24/7 connectivity – at a price everyone can afford.

    I’m not sure if that’s meant to ironic or retro, but its hardly ‘smartbook’.

  9. mastrolilli@hotmail.com Tuesday, August 4, 2009

    Oh goody another category!

    I remember how happy I was when Asus brought the EEEPC out and didn’t call it anything but a notebook. Then everyone started doing the netbook chant and that was over.

    Doesn’t all this just makes marketing these devices that much harder the industry?

  10. mastrolilli@hotmail.com Tuesday, August 4, 2009

    Sorry for the grammar.

    I am typing on the go.

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