The State of the Smartbook

The Mobinnova Beam is one of the first netbooks expected in 2010.

Netbooks have been a rip-roaring success since they hit the market a year and a half ago. In 2009 alone, one out of every five PCs sold has reportedly been a netbook, with estimates for the full year of sales hovering at around 35 million. Almost all of the global computer manufacturers, including HP, Dell, ASUS and Acer, have netbooks in their product lines. But if you ask companies like Qualcomm, Freescale and Nvidia, they’d say there’s room for another type of uber-portable, connected, cheap and underpowered computer — the so-called “smartbook.”

A portmanteau of the words smartphone and notebook, the smartbook would combine the best of both devices, namely long battery life and Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity (smartphones) and a laptop-like clamshell design, albeit with a full screen, keyboard and mouse pad (notebook).

While smartbooks will be lighter, cheaper and more connected than netbooks, some core ingredients — such as Intel processors and Microsoft’s operating system — will be missing, which could present usability challenges to mainstream users. Over at GigaOM Pro, I take a look at whether the new crop of devices set to be available starting in early 2010 will be able to successfully penetrate the mainstream consumer market.

Image courtesy of nDevilTV via Flickr.