Mobile phone chip giant Qualcomm today showed off a mini-laptop that could cost around $299 (£150) and offer quick wireless access to the internet via 3G mobile telecommunications networks.
The laptop, made by Taiwan's Inventec, is small and streamlined because the low-power chips inside don't need much space to disperse heat. But it runs on a Linux OS, which is less familiar to most people than Microsoft Windows.
Microsoft Windows Mobile 7, which is made for chips used in mobile phones, will be more laptop friendly than older versions of Windows Mobile, said Luis Pineda, senior vice president at Qualcomm, on the sidelines of a news conference in Taipei.
Windows Mobile 7 could be a key for the mobile phone industry in the future if they hope to take a bite out of the growing market for mini-laptops such as the Eee PC that have 7in to 10in screens, weigh less than 1kg and connect wirelessly to the internet.
The Eee PC is based on chips made by Intel, and runs PC programs such as the Windows XP OS and Microsoft Office. Asus also sells a version loaded with a Linux operating system and other open-source software.
Mobile phone industry chips can't run programs designed for PCs because of the difference in PC processors versus mobile phone processors, so Microsoft years ago created Windows Mobile to get its software into handsets.
Qualcomm hopes Windows Mobile 7 will make its Snapdragon chipsets a more vital competitor in mini-laptops as it takes on PC processor makers Intel, AMD and Via. The Qualcomm chipsets come with 1GHz Arm processing cores and Qualcomm technology to connect mini-laptops and other gadgets to 3G mobile phone networks.
One advantage for mobile phone chip makers is that they have worked from the start to create low power products that give off little heat, because mobile phones are small and people want handsets with long battery life. Now that they're moving into bigger products like laptop PCs, the advantages become clearer in longer battery life and more streamlined designs - since they don't have to include heat sinks for hot-running chips.
Companies that make chips for PCs paid little attention to power consumption in the past because desktops plugged into walls. There was lots of space inside a desktop and no battery. Over the past several years, however, they have worked hard to reduce power consumption and heat dissipation in chips aimed at laptops.
Qualcomm was not immediately able to say how long the battery in the Inventec laptop might last. The product is not available yet, but similar products could be out by the end of this year, said Pineda.
Snapdragon is already being used in the development of around 20 products, including personal navigation devices from Mio Technology, as well as products from High Tech Computer (HTC) and Samsung Electronics, he said.
"You'll see a big presence in Snapdragon-based devices at CES 2009," he said, referring to the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which will be held January 8-11 next year.