Apple may be hoping that the iPad is the must-have gadget of the year, but it's looking as though it may have some serious competition in the form of the smartbook.
Models from Lenovo and Sony are already in the wild (we got to feast our eyes on them at last week's Mobile World Congress event), but HP has also got its eye on the smartbook market with the launch of its 10.1in Compaq AirLife 100.
The HP Compaq Airlife 100 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 chipset, has a 16GB SSD (solid state) drive and has a tabbed web browser. The Airlife is an "instant-on" laptop with a touch-sensitive screen and a keyboard that's 92 percent the size of a standard PC one, making touch-typing a practical reality.
Web connectivity will be provided by O2 in the UK. HP has a deal with O2's parent company Telefonica to provide 3G wireless connectivity for its devices across Europe and Latin America.
HP says the lightweight Android OS is more than capable of multitasking and when used for standard tasks the Airlife should last for around 12 hours of active use. Its battery has a standby time of around 10 days. Wi-Fi is offered as well as 3G connectivity.
The smartbook comes with a VGA webcam and SD card slot for photos and additional file storage. HP anticipates Airlife owners wanting to be able to use the smartbook for mapping and navigation as well as traditional productivity tasks. It provides the device with a copy of NDrive's navigation preinstalled.
Smartbooks offer the lightweight convenience of a netbook but with superior screens, the SSD drives that few netbooks sport, 3G connectivity and a lightweight mobile operating system that makes them fast and their power needs modest. As they don't run Windows, the minimum specifications, memory and storage needs are neglible, while many of the applications are based in the cloud with files accessed and stored online.
"The browser has become the desktop for many people, and the new Compaq AirLife is the next evolution of a mobile computer that is streamlined specifically for the web," said Charl Snyman, vice-president of HP's Personal Systems Group, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
"This new type of user lives life online and no longer measures computing speeds and feeds, but rather friends, people and online social ranks."
Pricing has not yet been announced but the 'cloud white'' AirLife 100 is set to go onsale in the UK and "select" other countries in the spring.
See also: Lenovo Skylight smartbook
See also: Nokia 3G Booklet review