Smartbooks: The New Netbook?

Posted by Sam Churchill on

British chip designer ARM said on Monday four to five PC makers will introduce a total of 6 new netbook models using its processors this year. The company claims its ARM-based netbooks will make up 20-30 percent share of the netbook market next year.

Intel’s Atom processors, running Windows XP, currently dominate the netbook market. Chip makers Broadcom, Qualcomm, Nvidia and even Sandisk hope to re-write the rule book at Computex in Taiwan this week with close to a dozen netbook announcements.

Computex announcements include an Asus netbook which runs on a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon ARM chipset with the Google Android OS. Pegatron, the former contract manufacturing arm of Asustek Computer, has a 10-inch touchscreen display and runs on chips from Freescale Semiconductor with ARM processing cores. Acer is the first company to show an Android-based netbook with an Intel Atom. Other companies have Android running on ARM processing cores.

Freescale, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm make ARM processor chips while Nvidia’s Tegra-based handheld devices are expected to begin shipping in the second half of 2009.

ASUS, Compal, Foxconn, HTC, Inventec, Toshiba, Wistron and others are among the ODMs showing off wares at the Computex. Acer, Asustek, Toshiba, LG and Samsung plan devices based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon. The Snapdragon’s 1GHz Arm processor core will increase to 1.3GHz next year.

Tegra includes an 800-MHz ARM CPU, a high-definition video processor, an imaging processor, an audio processor and an ultralow-power GeForce GPU in a single package. It will compete not only with Intel’s Atom, but also Qualcomm’s Snapdragon and Via’s Nano.

Google’s Android software runs on ARM processors, as does Ubuntu Linux and Microsoft Windows Mobile. ARM-based smartbooks should cost less and run longer on batteries, says the NY Times. ARM-based systems will sell for as little as $200 compared to $300-$500 for Atom-based netbooks.

But devices based on the ARM processor don’t run Windows XP, Windows 7 or Vista, unlike netbooks based on Intel’s Atom processor. Meanwhile, Freescale is showing customers a prototype app store for Linux that aggregates as many as 6,000 Linux applications and tools. The company expects OEMs will develop their own online app stories for smartbooks just as Apple has done for the iPhone.

European streaming music service Spotify demonstrated an Android app, which features free, on-demand streaming as well as an offline synchronization and caching, playing tunes whether the phone is connected to a data network or not.

Computers based on the Intel Atom and Nvidia Ion combination outperform Intel’s CULV SU3500 processor with integrated graphics on 3D graphics benchmarks and transcoding video, said Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang.

Gigabyte’s TouchNote T1028 netbook sports an Intel 270/280 with a 10.1-inch touchscreen that swivels to transform into a tablet. It will cost US$599 and could be on the market globally as early as July or August. Gigabyte’s M1305 laptop will use an Intel CULV (consumer ultra-low voltage) microprocessor and sports a 13.3-inch screen. They hope to launch in September or October armed with Windows 7.

Intel is launching its new lineup of consumer ultra-low-voltage (CULV) processors for thin, inexpensive laptops at Computex (pdf). Intel also unveiled the Mobile Intel GS40 Express Chipset for ULV laptops which supports HD playback, Windows Vista Premium and native support for integrated HDMI output. The 1.3GHz SU2700 uses an 800MHz front-side bus, 2MB of L2 cache and has a thermal design power (TDP) of 10W, or around a third of the TDP for most current notebook processors. “Pine Trail” is their next generation Atom processor that can be combined with communications networks such as WiMAX.

The global netbook market will reach 25-30 million units in 2009, and 40-45 million units in 2010, according to Scott Lin, president of Acer Taiwan. Annual shipments of MIDs and UMPCs will reach 19 million units in 2013, according to In-Stat, while the total market for UMDs (handsets) will approach 656 million units in the same year. According to DisplaySearch, netbooks accounted for nearly 20 percent of all worldwide laptop sales last year.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Sunday, May 31st, 2009 at 11:20 pm .

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