Qualcomm put the spotlight on the smartbook concept at an analyst meeting in New York on Thursday, showing off a Lenovo-made device based on the Snapdragon chipset that company CEO Paul Jacobs said would be formally launched at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January.
The Lenovo smartbook has already secured operator backing from AT&T, which will sell the device, according to Jacobs.
A smartbook is what you get when you marry a smartphone and a netbook, according to Qualcomm. It's about the size of a netbook. However, the company's Snapdragon chipset, which does not require a heat sink or a cooling fan, allows for a lower price and longer battery life than what netbooks offer, according to Qualcomm.
Jacobs did not say what the Lenovo product would be called or when it would show up in stores. But the Lenovo machine sported a Linux-based user interface that consisted of six large widgets, including ones for e-mail and Facebook.
The display will support HD, Jacobs said, without elaborating on the resolution.
The Snapdragon chipset is based on an ARM CPU. Support for Flash, which is a rarity for ARM-based devices, was demonstrated by using YouTube.
The Lenovo smartbook comes with a large battery, which is mostly used to power the screen, according to Jacobs. When the display is folded down the user gets an instant-on and internet-connected device with a very long battery life, he said.
The Snapdragon chipset is becoming more common and is used on a number of recently announced smartphones, including the Acer Liquid, the HTC HD2 and the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10.
Qualcomm has also been pushing the idea of using Snapdragon in smartbooks for about six months. Several manufacturers, including Asus and Inventec, have shown off prototypes of the devices.
Qualcomm is also working on upcoming versions of the Snapdragon chipset for next-generation smartbooks. The QSD8672 Snapdragon model has a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and adds support for 1440 x 900 pixel resolution and faster mobile broadband using HSPA+ (High-Speed Packet Access), according to a road map from Qualcomm. Smartbooks based on the chipset should also be able to record and play back video at 1080p.
The QSD8672 will start sampling by the end of the year, the document said. It can then take up to a year before products based on the chipset are launched.
How successful smartbooks will be remains to be seen. It's still unclear how well they will be differentiated from existing netbooks, according to Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight.
The market for devices with screens measuring between 4 and 10 inches is still in its infancy, according to Wood, who compares what's happening to a goldrush. Everybody knows there is gold to be found, but no one knows where the gold is, Wood said.