Today most netbooks are powered by chips from Intel or VIA. But starting this summer we could see a flood of mini-laptops sporting ARM CPUs start to hit the streets. ARM is best known for making chips for cellphones today. But the next generation ARM chips will combine low power consumption with integrated WiFi, 3G, and video playback features, making them a good choice for mini-laptops. That is, if you don’t care too much about running Windows XP, Vista or 7. Because those operating systems don’t run on ARM processors right now. ARM netbooks will have to run Linux, Windows CE, or another operating system optimized for the platform.
That could make ARM powered netbooks a tough sell if you stick them in a big box electronics store next to mini-laptops sporting a full version of Windows. But ARM laptops will have two things going for them (besides excellent battery life):
- They’ll be much cheaper to produce, and will therefore likely be priced much lower than Intel or VIA powered computers.
- Cellphone carriers are likely to partner with the makers of ARM based netbooks to offer subsidized mini-laptops to customers who sign up for long term service contracts.
AT&T has already told EeeTimes that it expects to sell ARM based netbooks in the future. The company already offers a number of Intel Atom powered netbooks including the Acer Aspire One, Dell Inspiron Mini, and LG X110. AT&T doesn’t plan to replace those models with cheaper ARM powered laptops, but will instead likely offer customers both options.