As I was out running some errands earlier today, Stacey over at the main GigaOm site did a little catching up with Qualcomm (s QCOM). Last time I met with them, they showed me some very basic netbook prototypes with tons of potential, but I wasn’t sure exactly where they were going with the idea. Today, I can see it. And even better: I like it.
Qualcomm is wisely transitioning the name of their device idea from a netbook to a smartbook. That’s wise because the current netbook term usage comes directly from Intel (s INTC), although we all know that Psion created the first actual device branded a netBook. The subtle name change differentiates Qualcomm’s offering from Intel’s while also combining the terms “smartphone” and “netbook.”
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 first iteration of such a device looks like a Sony VAIO P in terms of the form factor: a full keyboard with a very short but wide display, almost like a large clamshell. Being ARM-based, a device of this size could run between eight and ten hours on a single charge. Qualcomm says you can leave the device in standby for a week, but I’d never neglect a device for that long.
Will such a device compete with the netbook of today? If you’re looking for a computer that runs an X86 operating system and programs, no. But if you want a portable device to browse the Internet and run web-based applications all day, it ought to work nicely. With my own preference to use the web over client applications, I’d love to get my hands on just such a smartbook. Qualcomm says the smartbooks are coming this fall on the product site devoted to the new devices. I’ll be waiting.