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Qualcomm Turns a Netbook Into a Smartbook

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qcom2Qualcomm (s Qcom) isn’t going to cede the mobile computing market to Intel (s intc) and its success with netbooks, the CDMA powerhouse made clear today while laying out its vision of mobile computing. The vision consists of what Qualcomm is calling a smartbook. But combining the words smartphone and netbook together may be the only new thing Qualcomm is pushing here — basically it’s launching an ARM-based netbook.

The smartbook is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip, which is a beefed-up cell phone processor that runs at 1GHz and includes a variety of radio connectivity such as cellular and Wi-Fi. This highly integrated chip can result in a device with a very small form factor, according to Luis Pineda, SVP of marketing and product management for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies. However, Qualcomm has chosen to pop this processor into a device with a screen measuring some 10-12 inches. With a full keyboard. Available either at retail or through a cell phone carrier. You know, kind of like a netbook. The pricing will be comparable to a netbook, too, according to Pineda, who noted that smartbooks will be complimentary to a notebook but will “cannibalize the netbook market.”

Well, at least Qualcomm is being up-front with its goals. The device will run Linux as the operating system, but Pineda says that the OS isn’t as important for the user interface as having a well-designed home screen and a touchscreen. The smartbooks will also have a battery life of 8 to 10 hours, instant-on capability, and may include voice. Basically, Qualcomm is taking a smartphone and making it bigger, as opposed to Intel’s netbook strategy of taking a PC and making it smaller. So far, smaller PCs have worked out for Intel, but it’s well aware that devices, like those proposed by Qualcomm, have features that will likely appeal to more users. That’s why Intel is pushing its Moblin OS, which steals some UI features from cell phones, and is working on its own integrated chips. However, when it comes to smartbooks, Qualcomm will have to deal with possible demand for software designed for x86 chips and convincing folks to shell out more money for a data plan on the device.

Qualcomm says 15 device manufacturers are using the Snapdragon chip in over 30 devices, including smartbooks. Cell phone companies such as LG and HTC are building the devices, as are computing companies such as Asus, Acer and Toshiba. Qualcomm expects the first smartbooks out by the end of the year.

27 Responses to “Qualcomm Turns a Netbook Into a Smartbook”

  1. Warthog

    Unfortunately, the Qualcomm “vision” is in precisely the wrong direction. Even the Acer Aspire One (8.9″ version) is too big What is needed is something more like the Nokia N800 (NOT the N810 with integrated keyboard). The device should be available in two sizes 1) the size of a standard mass market paperback, and 2) the size of a “quality” paperback. Keyboard should PLUG IN (not be part of the shell). Use as a tablet/touchscreen without the keyboard, and as a standard “laptop” with keyboard plugged in The additional space over the N800 should go to more memory, storage, and battery size.

  2. i like the sounds of these except for one thing: i really do not want to see any more carrier subsidiesed devices linked to multi year commitment contracts. i really hope each and every one of these becomes avialable on a no commitment basis that can be used with a mobile data plan of choice and/or WiFi an dno data plan.

  3. My next px exactly. Providing a standalone sirfiii chip or better is implemented. None of that assisted crap. Touch screen is a must. Netbooks btw are not smaller cheaper laptops, they are the next generation period. It’s all about saving money AND energy. Get It? Want a big screen? grab a handheld battery powered led projector. Having your cell phone integrated is of course optional but highly recommended. Wish I could afford an oqo though.

    • I hate these naming debates. It’s a war for mindshare, where the losers are generally the ones with the smallest marketing budgets. In the end it has little to do with product quality or providing a device that people can/will actually use. (Evidence: PC vs Mac, circa 1985.)

      I keep waiting for one of the manufacturers to realize that my “computer” isn’t a physical device – it’s the information and applications ON that device. In that model, a notebook/netbook/smartbook is really just a hard drive with a small screen and keyboard attached. I really wish I could plug it directly into my home computer (the one with a larger keyboard, better mouse, and 30″ monitor) and them boot from it as my “home” drive. Then I’d have what I really want: one computer with many faces.

  4. ok here is one for the future Stacey: a chart the lists the specs for each type of device head to head. netbook,smartbook,smartphone, sizes,processors,internet connectivity,cost,features,vendors,etc…

    thank you for all the data always!

  5. HereAndNow

    They should also include all the other “typical” smartphone hardware (GPS, accelerometer, digital compass, etc.). Then, running an OS like Android, you will be able to use location-based apps, make cell phone calls, send SMS, etc.

    This would REALLY differentiate “smartbooks” from the current generation of “netbooks” (which are basically just small & cheap notebooks).

    • HereAndNow — if Qualcomm is truly “Smart” that’s exactly what they’d be doing. Combine this with “scaled up” version of Android and the PC paradigm will have been turned on its head by Google/Qualcomm! And neither of these guys have markets they are worried about cannibalizing. Interesting times…Thx Stacey!

    • What you are describing is a Personal Media and Learning Device for a new “Knowledge and Information On-Demand Society”. A Version of this device will change the entire complection of Education and of human society, world wide. Welcome to the 21st Century!

      We just need Apple, Qualcomm, or someone to build the device you describe.