LONDON Wireless chip group Qualcomm Inc. has started promoting the concept of the 'smartbook', powered by the latest 1GHz versions of its Snapdragon chipsets, and described as taking the best of what a netbook and smartphone has to offer in terms of functionality and performance.
In a webcast, Luis Pineda, senior vice president of marketing and product management for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies said the new category device would extend the capabilities of today's high-end smartphones with even larger screen sizes and, importantly, the features of sub-notebook/netbook class PCs.
Pineda said the smartbook would have the "intuitive ease of a smartphone" and being "always on, always connected to 3G [and having] the long battery life and all day usage" of a smartphone.
The product would typically have a battery life of up to eight hours, based on active usage. The devices will have Bluetooth, GPS and HD video playback, and will likely run on Linux with a smartphone-like user interface.
Screen sizes will go up to 12 inches, using a WXGA resolution of 1280x768 pixels.
"Snapdragon is a key chipset for computing products," said Pineda, and we are have started looking at new devices beyond the cellphone, with a larger display, full keyboard, and an enhanced user experience."
The key to the smartbook's success will be the level of PC functionality and crucially the look and feel of the user interface.
Pineda would not say which ODMs or OEMs are developing smartbooks, but noted that 15 companies are already developing a variety of multimedia devices based on the Snapdragon chipset, including Toshiba, Samsung, Asus,Acer, HTC, Wistron, Compal, LG, Quanta, Foxconn and Inventec.
He suggested the first of these smartbooks would be available by the end of this year.
The devices will run a fully-functional PC operating system, more likely than not to be Linux-based, suggested Pineda, so that business and consumer applications will be readily and cheaply available for instant download. However, he stressed Qualcomm is not in the business of picking OS winners, noting that its chips are already powering the initial Android based Google phones.
Other chipmakers that have indicated they are developing or have chipsets suitable for devices that have the functionalities outlined by Pineda include Freescale Semiconductor and Marvell.
Most of those touting the concept use the ARM architecture, and are happy to differentiate the category from the many 'netbooks', invariably powered by Intel's Atom processor and using the Windows operating system.
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