Tag Archives: smartbook
The recent announcement from Google’s Andy Rubin, VP of Engineering that the Nexus One will slowly migrate to retail outlets still shows us that they are not afraid to take risks in market disruption. It was a test worth watching: could Google single-handedly upend the traditional mobile phone market by selling phones through their own channels? Initial complaints with the web store were that when problems arose with the Nexus One, there was no real way to get customer support on the phone. This coupled with low sales numbers made it really hard to expect this model to work on a mass-market scale.
But there is a unique twist to all of this and one that bodes well for future hardware that runs on Google’s operating systems. Instead of having an online store, the idea is to replace that with a showcase-type web portal where people can get a handle on the different devices that run Android. In the future, that will also include devices that run Chrome OS whether they may be netbooks, smartbooks or tablets.
But a showcase can only display pictures, videos and specifications. What is really needed are physical stores.
Let’s not forget that a major engine of growth for Apple in the past decade has been their entrance into the retail market with their own stores. Even Microsoft now has their own retail shops in some test markets. The reality is that people who are early adopters in technology (like the Nexus One) don’t need to go to a traditional store to check out gadgets, but a large majority of people want to be able to see, touch and interact with a device before they buy it.
With Google, there are already so many Android smartphones available from a large swath of companies that it makes sense to have a showcase, quite possibly with their own branded locations. Eventually they will also have Chrome OS devices on display as well and at the same time will need to compete with Apple and Microsoft in this space, who are already ahead of them in this regard.
One of the biggest challenges faced as devices get smaller and smaller is that the traditional keyboard still requires a certain footprint in order to be useable. This fact is even more evident when you look at tablets and phones which don’t have a keyboard at all – they require you to use an on-screen touch interface in order to write. For many, this trend could be problematic since there is an enjoyable degree of tactile feedback that comes with using a traditional keyboard.
That’s why when I came across this post from Wired I knew I had to write about it. Sure it’s only a mock-up, but this is the best way that I have seen so far on solving the keyboard problem, which is to fold it:
Designer Yang Yongchang has put up some images and a small write-up on how his device, the iWeb 2.0, would work. I really like the idea, and although I’m sure this has been tried in design labs before if it could be pulled off by being usable there would be appeal for this. Two things come to mind, however. A folding keyboard would have many parts making it expensive and possibly fragile. Another problem could be that although the pictures look good, it needs to be comfortably useable to a vast amount of people in order for something like this to sell.
With the mobile device market creating new genres of gadgets such as the tablet and especially the smartbook which will blend together elements of a netbook with a smartphone – the keyboard problem becomes magnified. Whether it runs Android, Chrome OS, Linux or some variety of Windows a smartbook is going to need to have a real keyboard.
I know that in the mobile phone market the trend is to shy away from manufacturing smartphones with full-on keyboard. The Nexus One has done so, along with other Android devices. The Motorola Droid, however, does come with a keyboard. I suppose it is all in terms of a person’s taste, but for those who like to write having a keyboard is really helpful. Especially if you’re clumsy with a touchscreen.
Wondering when you can get your hands on a Chrome-powered machine? Expect it sometime in the latter half of the year, just as what Google established as a timeline last year. That’s because the Middle East tech blog T-Break Tech is reporting that CEO Eric Schmidt said yesterday at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit that Chrome OS is still on track for that timetable and that big news will be coming later on this year.
It’s very possible that we have not learned about all of the details about Chrome OS yet.For example, not long after Apple showed off their iPad tablet for the first time, Google quietly slipped some videos of a Chrome OS prototype tablet. There were also some interesting user interfeace designs accompanying the videos. It’s not a far stretch to think that Google plans on offering several varieties of devices in order to filled the segment of gadgets that fit between a smartphone and a a laptop.
That could mean a smartbook, tablet or something else that does not even have a label yet. For example, check out this patent design from Qualcomm. It’s a tablet-netbook-smartphone product that folds and bends depending on how you want to use it.
The reality is that instead of just having one computing machine, many users may adopt a liking to several different ones depending on where they are. For example, there could be a smartbook/phone for being on the go, a netbook for the desk at home and a tablet in the living room. Not to mention your Chrome OS business machine that expected in 2011. All of these devices would be able to access the same data and preferences as needed, or could be configured differently to serve their own purpose.
Regardless, I expect something interesting coming soon.
Computerworld is reporting that Computex, held the first week of June in Taipei, will have over fifty different devices on display that run on the ARM architecture. ARM is a company based in Cambridge, U.K. that develops and licenses their processor technology to a wide array of manufacturers. You can find ARM chips in your smartphone, and the soon to be released iPad tablet that has been of keen interest in the tech world has an ARM chip in it customized by Apple.
This wouldn’t be news for a mobile phone expo. But Computex is the second largest computer manufacturer conference. Because the chips require less power and produce a lower amount of heat than x86 processors, this technology will become prevalent in the netbook, tablet and smartbook market over the next few years. Many of these gadgets will be offered by wireless companies offering data services bundled together in the second half of this year.
Of particular interest of course is the fact that Chrome OS machines will most likely run on ARM chips. There already has been a successful prototype shown at the CeBIT conference not too long ago, and I would expect to see a good amount of machines running Chrome OS specifically when Computex rolls around. Right now many of these tablets and smaller computers are being shown running Android, however I am not quite convinced that operating system is the best choice for theses machine but instead simply a placeholder as Chrome OS is put through its paces.
At the Mobile World Congress, which just wrapped up in Barcelona, Taiwan’s Quanta Computer showed off a smartbook running Chrome OS complete with Qualcomm’s FLO TV. So what is FLO TV? It’s digital content straight to your mobile device, whether that may be television shows or interactive magazines. Plus, by watching shows or reading articles with a digital device, you are able to have an enhanced expereince: imagine getting Twitter updates while watching a game or being able to read an interview of an entertainer that you just read a profile of. Here’s a quick overview:
That’s the basic gist of FLO TV. Because it uses analog signals that were once for over-the-air TV, you don’t need to have an internet connection, or even 3G service. It can be had for a small fee on wireless phone networks like Verizon and AT&T, or you can buy a device specifically for FLO TV. While that may be the case right now, don’t be surprised to start seeing this on smartbooks and netbooks. When Quanta first showed off this netbook product late last year, it was running Android. Now they are using a Chromium build instead. Also, should it come to any surprise that instead of using an Intel Atom, it is loaded with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor?
According to their corporate site, Quanta currently does not have its own netbook or smartbook on the market, so it is possible that they are waiting for a commerical launch of Chrome OS before they release one. Since they have used both Android and Chrome, it seems like they enjoy running operating systems that are free for this device.
So Samsung is working on a Chrome OS product. What a shock. Although maybe in a dry news cycle there is an appetite for anything related to Chrome OS, that unfortunately doesn’t really strike me as news. Maybe I’m cynical, maybe I’m a realist (I could also be dumb, you could comment upon that if you want). The truth is that there are probably a whole slew of manufacturers that want to be the first that gets into the genre of Google’s cloud computing platform. But in being realistic that means that the one that offers the most compelling device specs for the initial launch will win.
It would really be no coincidence that Samsung has initialized a partnership with ARM to provide graphics capabilities to their mobile devices, but other sites are not reporting this little nugget of information. Instead of providing specifications for a future netbook, the interest that I have is more about the synergy that Samsung and ARM will create with this partnership.
Sure, its just a press release, but the reality is that Samsung doesn’t need an integrated processing and graphics solution for a television or a mobile phone. It’s to get into the netbook/tablet/smartphone market. And say what you will about them, but their products are pretty good. Mind you, to compete in the soon-crowded cloud operating system market they are going to be dealing with Taiwan companies that have been successful in the netbook market such as Asus and Acer. However, I would not be surprised to see Samsung do some innovative development that puts them ahead of the pack and eventually have a Chrome OS product that is ahead of their competition.
If Samsung is really interested in entering this market and competing on price, then they could do well. Their track record in consumer electronics is pretty good. But HTC, which came out of nowhere, is currently dominating in Android mobile phone sales because they are ambitious and were willing to take risks that traditional mobile phone manufacturers were not willing to do. Is it going to be a consumer electronics company like Samsung that can heed the call for emerging web operating systems? We will see.
University of Michigan researchers have made what will be a breakthrough in processing power for mobile computing – an ARM processor that is smaller than a penny and uses a miniscule amount of power. The energy requirement for this chip right now is provided by a small solar powered unit, and eventually could be derived by other sources such as the body heat of a human. The goal of this project is to develop monitoring devices for health purposes but I can see a bigger use for something like this in the technology industry.
For those who are not aware (I’m one of those) ARM is a company based in Cambridge that has a business based on the Qualcomm model – they don’t manufacture their products, they simply research, develop and license them to others for use in electronic products. You might be surprised to know that ARM processors are already in 95% of the mobile phones that we use. In fact, the current ARM products are so successful because they work on the idea that low enegy and low heat dissipation is the reason why we enjoy phones that don’t melt in our pockets the way that laptops do when they’re sitting on our legs.
So it comes to no surprise that the next generation of laptops, netbooks and smartbooks are probably going to be based on this technology. Qualcomm has already released their processor for the mobile computing market, dubbed the Snapdragon. Expect to see products being released in 2010 with these processors, because their power and heat use are low enough to not require a fan for releasing heat from the chassis of a mobile computer.
Of course, I expect that Intel will come out with something to combat ARM processors like the Snapdragon, as the most popular netbooks right now use their Atom architecture. But for the time being, ARM is going to be the way to go when looking at computers that are light and fast – which is the model for what Google’s Chrome OS is expected to run on. Don’t be surprised if initial machines running Chrome OS that hit the market are using ARM processors.
Also, think about the applications for a processor that small. While it may be far off, think about the implications of tablets that could theoretically unfold out of your pocket and provide all of the processing power that you would need.
What kind of applications could you develop for a platform like that?
You can read more about the University of Michigan research project right here.
Ever dislike sitting with your laptop until it gets uncomfortably hot to the point where you no longer can get any work done? With a new generation of computing devices called smartbooks, this problem – along with a few other hardware issues – fades away. A smartbook that has poppped up in the news today is the Compaq Airlife 100 which is an 10.1 inch Android machine that is based on a Snapdragon ARM processor. An ARM processor is the type of technology commonly found in smartphones and other highly mobile devices. Because of this, the chipset itself does not generate a lot of heat and therefore does not need a fan for cooling. Check out this video from CES:
Touchscreen, solid state hard drive and 3G? Where can I get one of these bad dogs?
So what is the difference between a smartbook and a netbook? The lines will probably blur sooner or later, but a netbook is a device that probably runs an Intel Atom chipset and runs a full function OS such as Windows. A smartbook has a hardware platform more akin to a smartphone, yet offers more functionality in terms of a larger internal storage capability, a full keyboard and a good number of inputs for versatility.
Right now most of these smartbooks are running customized Android platforms, but don’t be surprised if we start seeing some web OSs on these very soon.
A fantastic in-depth article came out yesterday about Chrome OS that comes from those behind the scenes at Google. This was an interview that was done back in November with Chrome OS lead engineer Matthew Papakipos and Google PR’s Eitan Bencuya. They talk about a myriad of topics, from the conceptualization of Chrome OS out of Chrome browser development, why we call netbooks what we do and who the target market is for Chrome OS.
One of the big issues addressed is the difference between a phone and a netbook. For many (including myself) it seems difficult to understand why there is both Android and Chrome OS. But the reality is that until there is a breakthrough in usability design that allows a phone and a netbook to converge, there really does need to be a clear separation between netbooks and smartphones. The concept of tablets and smartbooks are moving technology in that direction, but until you are able to pull a Chrome OS machine out of your pocket and use it just like a full fledged computer, this is the way things have to be.
The best part? The quote from Papakipos on what Chromium OS really is: ”it is challenging—we haven’t figured this all out.”
That’s what is intriguing.
I thought you might enjoy some video for Monday morning. Marvell Technology Group is confirming that their Armada 510 ARM chip will be compatible with Chrome OS. The chip is built specifically for smartbooks, is capable of running Ubuntu and can support high-def 1080p video. A clip has been released showing a prototype model with Chrome OS running on it, however the machine doesn’t appear to be running a version that I’ve seen before. This looks more like the Chrome browser, since the battery and wireless settings do not appear in the upper right hand corner:
Nevertheless, the type of hardware that Marvell’s technology can run is impressive, and an example was recently shown as CES. This device is running the Armada 510 at 1.2 GHz, is slimmer than a MacBook Air, and has the smallest battery I think I’ve ever seen:
It’s becoming clear that the PC hardware market is about to become full of a lot of different types of small and lightweight machines. With CES coming up we can probably expect to see new and intriguing models that don’t fit into a particular genre. One thing that’s certain is that there are two totally different markets that are being targeted when contrasting netbooks from smartbooks. There is also hardware inside each that differentiates the two.
While netbooks are typically laptops that are smaller and geared mostly towards using the internet, smartbooks are really larger iteration of a smartphone. In fact, most smartbooks are expected to be produced by smartphone manufacturers and backed by wireless carriers. This is because unlike netbooks, which use Intel or AMD architecture, smartbooks utilize ARM processors that are found in just about every cell phone on the market today. Because these units are using the ARM technology, smartbooks are cheaper than netbooks. At the same time, a netbook will have more capabilites than a smartbook.
Smartbooks will be priced aroound the $200 range while netbooks can go from $300-$500 depending on hardware configuration and operating system.
Bottom line?Although netbooks have been a hit for the past two years, the market could change based on new technology that is shown at CES. Google’s going to have a big part of this market as users begin to adopt computing devices that are different from the traditional PC of the past.
I would expect to see Android on smartbooks and Chrome OS on netbooks.