Foxconn is one of those companies that you don’t hear too much about in the West. But they’re responsible for making a significant portion of the notebooks and other consumer electronics devices (including the iPhone) that we purchase. The Taiwanese company just doesn’t usually slap its own name on the products, but rather builds them by order from big name companies including computer vendors and telecommunications companies. And right now, a Foxconn official tells PC World, the company is working on “less than five” ARM-based mini-notebooks or “smartbooks.”
The devices are expected to be sold by telecoms in China and elsewhere for between $100 and $200. And because they have ARM processors, they won’t be able to run Windows XP like most netbooks. Instead they’ll likely come with various Linux distributions. Earlier this year there was a report that Foxconn was working with Moblin Linux. PC World reports that some of the new systems will include a similar operating system, and that the company is also exploring Google Android as a possibility (although there’s no mention in the articl of the upcoming Google Chrome operating system).
While I think there’s a popular misconception out there that smartbooks will be smaller than netbooks, Focxconn says the machines it’s working on will have screens ranging from 7 inches to 10 inches in size, which is pretty much par for the netbook course. What really sets these computers apart is the long battery life and low price that comes from using an ARM-based chipset instead of an x86 processor. But the Foxconn smartbooks (which are wearing the codename “qbook” at the moment) don’t have their specs written in stone. On the off chance that Intel decides to release a new processor that can compete with ARM chips on price, Foxconn may decide to retool the qbooks before launch next year.