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Qualcomm proffers first smartbook platform

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At the Computek show in Taiwan six months ago, Qualcomm and Freescale coined a new phrase, 'smartbook', to describe a mobile internet device that would come somewhere between a smartphone and a netbook. Now the chip giant says it will show its first commercial design at its analyst day to be held in New York on Thursday.

Qualcomm expects the smartbook to be a new product category, combining low power and instant start-up with ultra-mobility (embedded 3G or 4G, plus Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS) and a rich browser interface.

Although such products will be logical targets for Intel's Atom processor as it drives down power consumption - and especially for the Intel/Nokia collaboration on Linux MIDs - for now the most vociferous support has come from the ARM-based processor community. ARM licensees like Qualcomm see the smartbook as a natural home as they push their processors upmarket from phones, but see the netbook still dominated by Atom and Windows.

More specialized devices like the Amazon Kindle ebook reader are already showing the sort of experience that a smartbook could deliver - 3G embedded, so no data contracts; innovative interfaces tailored to the user's preferred apps and behaviour; long battery life and fast boot-up. The Qualcomm platform would extend this to more broad-based usage and would be particularly geared to the growth in browser-based, 'cloud' apps and services.

Qualcomm did not reveal details of the design it will release this week, but said its key processor for this market, the 1GHz Snapdragon, is now included in 40 current or soon-to-be released devices, from 15 vendors. An early mover in smartbooks is expected to be Asustek, which demonstrated a prototype at Computek using Snapdragon, and Nokia is also working on a design in this area. Qualcomm expects functionality of other more specialized gadgets to be merged, over time, into a single smartbook - for instance, its recently announced mobile TV viewer.

Copyright © 2009, Wireless Watch

Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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