Smartbooks, an alternative to netbooks, are on the horizon

The apparently never-ending search for the sweet spot between mobile phones and laptop PCs begot subnotebooks and then netbooks, with their 10-inch screens and weights of about 2.4 pounds to 3.2. pounds. Next in line: the smartbook, yet another hybrid that would combine the features of smart phones and laptops in a form slightly smaller than a netbook — with an eight- or nine-inch screen — and, according to its proponents, would cost $100 or more less.

The biggest difference between smartbooks and netbooks might not be in size, however, but in the choice of processor and operating system. Smartbooks, expected to appear in the fall, will use an ARM processor, which works with Linux. Netbooks, with their Intel Atom processors, run Windows XP — and, eventually, Windows 7.

Qualcomm, which just released a new Snapdragon chipset for smartbooks and smart phones, said smartbooks will be less than two pounds and less than 20mm thick, and they will feature 3G mobile broadband, always-on connectivity, Global Positioning System receivers, and batteries that last all day and a week on standby. Nvidia and Freescale are among other companies making chips for smartbooks. Manufacturers expect them to sell for about $199, compared with the $300-500 range for netbooks.

The question for potential government users, of course, might be Windows compatibility. We'll see.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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