Sorry to borrow a line from “The Matrix”, but do you hear that sound? That is the sound of inevitability, and it’s currently being heard in Taipei, Taiwan, at this year’s Computex show. Actually, it’s being seen and heard right now on a prototype ASUS Eee PC: Google Android (s GOOG) running on a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon (s QCOM) chipset.
I said in December that this marriage was a logical fit for a non-WinTel netbook, and I still believe that’s true. Even more so now that I’ve seen just a few seconds of such a demo. The Android environment appears to run spritely on the Qualcomm CPU, which offers fluid 720p video playback support. The chip under the hood is fanless and consumes far less energy than today’s Intel Atom (s INTC) netbook. Fans of software applications on netbooks aren’t likely to be impressed since the Android Marketplace doesn’t compete with the traditional software market. But people wanting to use the ‘net all day just might be happy with such a beast.
Debates on software vs. web clients aside, you can’t dispute what Qualcomm has to offer in its ARM-based Snapdragon platform: connectivity options, low-power consumption, and enough “oomph” to offer a pleasant portable computing experience. Its newest addition to the Snapdragon family offers a clock speed of 1.3GHz, support for CDMA and UMTS 3G, WXGA display output, an enhanced 3D graphics core, and integrated GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 2.1.
The only question I have left is: How much will an Android netbook powered by Qualcomm cost? We just saw the Qualcomm smartbook concept debut last week, a smaller version of the ASUS device, and early reports had that device pegged at a $300 to $500 price tag. That’s too high if a consumer is expected to give up the vast amount of X86 software available. Besides, we’re essentially talking about the guts of a high-end smartphone in a notebook form factor. My take: These devices can’t exceed $250 in price for any chance at mainstream adoption.