LAS VEGAS Lenovo has become the first top tier PC maker to announce an ARM-based netbook, claiming it stakes out new territory between a notebook and smartphone. The Lenovo Skylight uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor running at a gigahertz and Lenovo's own variant of Linux.
PC companies are increasingly experimenting with designs beyond their traditional x86 and Windows architectures. For example, Dell recently announced a smartphone using the Google Android software.
Lenovo will use better connectivity, longer battery life and a novel look-and-feel to distinguish its Skylight from the wide variety of Intel Atom-based systems that currently dominate the netbook market. Qualcomm and other ARM-based CPU makers have said so-called smartbooks could sell for as little as $300 because they use lower costs processors, operating systems and use cloud-based services rather than a large hard disk.
The Skylight uses a combination of 14 Gbytes of embedded flash and 2 Gbytes of online storage in place of a hard disk. However like many x86-based netbooks, the Skylight will sell for $499 in the U.S.
The Skylight has a 10-inch display and Wi-Fi like most netbooks. However, it distinguishes itself in part by embedding a quad-band 3G WCDMA modem as a standard feature.
The Lenovo system also sports a novel, curved industrial design and a widget-based user interface. Lenovo's marketing materials describe the Skylight as its "first smartbook, [a system that] is always connected, provides all day use and has a Web optimized [user interface] in a sleek package."
The company posted a video demonstrating the system.
The Skylight weighs less than two pounds and measures 253 x 201.1 x 17.2 mm. It also integrates a 1.3 Mpixel camera, far below the resolution of components in the latest smartphones.
Lenovo said the Skylight will ship in the spring. Just weeks ago, a Lenovo technology executive downplayed the significance of Windows alternatives in the wake of the Windows 7 launch.
Market watcher Forward Concepts (Tempe, Ariz.) estimates 165 million portable computers will ship in 2010. Nearly 80 percent of them will be traditional notebooks, 17 percent will be netbooks and about 3.6 percent or 6 million will be ARM-based smartbooks, the company said.
DisplaySearch estimates notebook shipments rose five percent in 2009, but average selling prices fell nearly 20 percent. Price declines will continue in 2010 but unit sales could rise by 16 percent, the market watcher said.
The Lenovo Skylight was announced along with a broad range of other more conventional PC and notebook products. They include the IdeaCentre A300, an integrated desktop with a 21-.5-inch display, two convertible netbook tablets based on the Intel Atom processors and a range of new notebooks.