Qualcomm adds 'smartbook' to device vocabulary

The battle for the mobile internet market is all about discovering new device formats that improve the experience, but this is also leading to a confusing array of labels for the products that sit somewhere between the PC and the smartphone. Qualcomm, elbowing into Intel's Atom territory with its Snapdragon chipset, has come up with its own contribution - the 'smartbook' - and claims to have 15 manufacturers now readying devices based on its platform.

These customers are working on a mixture of smartphones and 'smartbooks' (which sound pretty much like netbooks, with screens up to 12 inches), Qualcomm said in an update on Snapdragon. The chip giant expects 30 products based on the chipset to be available by year end, and many are coming from the same base that Intel targets with Atom, the low power processor with which it aims to move down from PCs into portable devices and, from next year, smartphones.

Luis Pineda, senior VP of marketing and product development, defined a smartbook has having the "intuitive ease of a smartphone" and being "always on, always connected to 3G ... with the long battery life and all day usage" of a smartphone, but with a large screen.

Pineda may be the only person who thinks the phone is easier to use than the PC, but his general points re-emphasize Qualcomm's determination to spread its cellphone chip dominance into the new hybrid categories, at the expense of Intel – and to define the new gadget formats as upgrades from the smartphone, not cut-down PCs.

The distinction is too subtle for many consumers, but is vital in terms of the balance of power in the middle ground, and whether the market will evolve in Intel s image, or that of the ARM-based companies like Qualcomm.

To that end, Qualcomm is not just suggesting new formats but seeking to stamp its mark on them, creating an ecosystem around Snapdragon devices and encouraging its customers to use a 'smartbook' logo - which could lead the chipmaker into the kind of branding that Intel pioneered in PCs with 'Intel Inside'.

The updated list of companies now making or planning Snapdragon-based devices of various kinds includes Acer, Compal, Inventec, Samsung, Asus, Foxconn, LG, Toshiba, C-motech, HTC, Quanta and Wistron. Most of the products will run Linux, although Qualcomm has shown Snapdragon running Symbian and Windows, as well as various Linux flavors. DoCoMo and Telefónica recently launched the Toshiba Snapdragon phone, the TG01.

Rethink Wireless

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