inventec smartbook

There’s no question that PC makers and wireless carriers are getting ready to unveil a whole slew of low power smartbooks with ARM processors and Linux, Google Android, or Windows CE operating systems. What is still in question is whether there’s any real demand for these devices.

I still kind of think that if you hand somebody a device that looks like a cellphone they won’t care what OS it runs as long as it does what they expect it to (make calls, maybe surf the web, take pictures, etc). And I think the same holds true if you hand somebody a device that looks like a laptop. The difference is that most people expect a laptop to be able to do things like run Office, Photoshop, and other programs that aren’t available for Linux. Sure, there’s OpenOffice, Firefox, GIMP, and even Skype. But unless users are ready to start using Linux on their primary computers, I don’t see them wanting to use these open source alternatives to Windows programs on the go.

That said, there are some pretty exciting things about smartbooks. They use very little power, so the batteries last for a long time. Many will feature always-connected capabilities so that you can receive emails and instant messages even when the laptop is closed. And as Nicole from Netbook News shows, some, like Inventec’s upcoming smartbook will feature the NVIDIA Tegra chipset which enables 1080p HD video playback while using 1W or less of power.

Inventec is looking for companies to rebrand and redistribute the smartbook, so it won’t likely have the Inventec name on it if and when it makes it to market. The laptop boots in just about 12 seconds and runs Windows CE. It has no on-board storage space to speak of, but you can run media from a flash drive or SD card. You can check out Nicole’s hands-on video after the break.



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14 replies on “Inventec Smartbook almost makes me think Smartbooks have a shot”

  1. It’s nice to see these come to market, since most netbooks have been growing bigger and more expensive (can’t even hardly call them netbooks anymore). The smartbooks get back to the basics: cheap, portable and not intended to replace your primary computer. I’m running Ubuntu 9.10 already on my 701SD, so all of those OS options are fine. Heck, even Chrome would be good since I barely use anything but Firefox (Tweetdeck and maybe the calculator occasionally). I would prefer just wi-fi over a 3G model, primarily because I’m cheap and don’t want to be tied to a contract (and am around enough hot spots).

  2. WinCE? Really? In 2009?

    I’m pretty sure that when push comes to shove, people are going to want to use Firefox and Openoffice (or Google Docs/Office Live) over Mobile Word/Excel/IE, and won’t be doing Photoshop or Gimp type stuff on something with a slow processor and tiny screen regardless. K-mart is selling that MIPS “netbook” running WinCE for $120 next week, and this one had better not sell for much more than that. Thanks to closeouts, Wal-mart deals and other bargains, people expect $300 laptop-style devices to actually be laptops now.

    And the lack of pricing information makes me think they’re overlooking that one crucial aspect to any potential appeal smartbooks will have, whether they’re running Chrome OS, Android, UNR or even WinCE: the kind of pricing that makes them ubiquitous and disposable.

    1. OpenOffice is way way too bloated (the same can be said of MS office 2007). I’m hoping Softmaker Office is ported to Android.

      1. Android apps are Java-only. I’d bet that if Softmaker spends the money to rewrite its office suite for Android, someone will probably also port Abiword and Gnumeric, which do about as good a job (minus presentations, which I can’t really see someone doing on a smartbook anyway.) But if they haven’t ported it to Blackberry (also Java) or iPhone yet, I doubt they’ll port it to Android.

  3. People are willing to use Google Android or WebOS (both Linux) on their smartphones and about one-third of netbooks run Linux so I don’t see any reason they wouldn’t be willing to use Linux on a smartbook. With full distributions like Fedora 12 ARM being available, you get a lot more functionality than a smartphone too. It’s nice having a “market place” of 15,000+ well-tested applications right out of the gate too.

  4. This version is useless, since it is WinCE but hopefully a penguin version is coming.

    And I really wonder about the continual FUD about the lack of availability of Windows applications which cost more than the unsubsidized price of these machines. Are there really so many people lusting to run Adobe Creative Suite ($999 MSRP) on an inexpensive, underpowered machine with a tiny display and a cramped pointing device? But every discussion of ARM or Linux (and especially ARM/Linux) seems to be incomplete without someone bringing up the lack of Photoshop. Same goes for MS Office to a smaller degree, smaller in that most users bootleg it anyway so they do sorta expect to run it on anything since they see it as ‘free.’

    Granted there are apps that hold back Linux adoption, but Photoshop ain’t one of them. ACT!, Quicken and Outlook are all more of a barrier to smartbook adoption than Photoshop.

  5. sounds to me like your comparing apples (calls) with oranges (photoshop) there. Or is it a case of making a product into a synonym for its type (cleanex)?

  6. If Citrix were to develop a client for these things to enable business use, it could actually take off.

  7. 4GB of RAM and no onboard storage? Buyers are used to laptop-like things having onboard storage these days, and I think there’ll be something of a learning or expectations hurdle to get over in this area–especially since you can now get, for example, an iPhone with 32GB of built-in flash storage. (Of course, you’ll pay a lot more for that than for a smartbook.)

    Another thing that puzzles me is that all the smartbook prototypes I’ve seen so far look to be as big in all dimensions as a typical netbook. There must be some empty space in there.

    The first thing that would entice me to make the jump to a smartbook would be that it could be more compact and light than a netbook with the same size screen and keyboard.

    Maybe they’re thinking, well, netbooks are popular, so we’ll make them look just like netbooks, and people will buy them thinking they’re getting a cheap netbook. This could backfire.

    And I’m certainly hoping to see some inexpensive compact models with 8.9″ and smaller screens.

  8. Pingback: Inventec Smartbook almost makes me think Smartbooks have a shot – Liliputing | The Bargain Netbook

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