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Qualcomm joins Microsoft in smartbook fantasy

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JavaOne Qualcomm's conversion from Java competitor to paid-up club member seems complete, thanks to its new-found interest in "smartbooks."

The company, which once cooked up the Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW) to try and challenge Sun Microsystems' Java, has announced the early access release of Java Platform Standard Edition (Java SE) 6 on its Snapdragon ARM-based architecture.

Qualcomm said that it has worked with Sun for more than year to port a complete, optimized, and standard version of Java SE to Snapdragon. Sun's Java Virtual Machine (JVM) has been optimized for the Snapdragon ARM chipsets.

Snapdragon is Qualcomm's 1GHz-based chip architecture similar to Intel's Atom, which targets wireless devices with accelerate performance for graphics and media and provides improved power consumption and battery life.

Qualcomm's chipset has already been used in Toshiba's TG01 smartphone and it has reportedly demonstrated an Asus EE PC prototype at the Computex show in Taiwan.

Qualcomm called the full Java SE port an important factor in delivering on its vision for "smartbooks." That's a phrase Microsoft used this week at Computex and that Microsoft defined as meaning a "low cost small notebook PC." Microsoft has been extremely shy using the phrase that everybody else has used to describe the sub-notebook category of computer - netbook.

Vendors are now, it seems, starting to position smartbooks as somewhere between a smartphone and a netbook.

Qualcomm tried to explain Smartbooks as a: "New class of devices that bridge the functional divide between smartphones and laptops, delivering the best aspects of a smartphone experience on a larger-display form-factor."

The company's support for this likely ephemeral phrase is to be expected, given that it doesn't participate in the PC-OEM-centric market this netbooks, but it does have plenty of experience in cell phones and wireless.

Let's hope for the sake of those who buy Snapdragon-based devices, Qualcomm has better luck in netbooks - an actual market - than smartbooks, which is a marketing person's bubble. The last thing consumers need is to be sold another category of computing device that proves an historical dead end. ®

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