There are two major trends in the netbook space today. On the one hand, PC makers are putting out ultraportable laptops with bigger screens and keyboards and faster processors. We’re talking 11 and 12 inch models with Intel CULV or AMD NEO chips. These machines might not strictly fit last year’s definition of a netbook. But PC makers are taking some of the features we’ve come to expect of netbooks (light weight, long battery life, and moderate performance) and thrown them into affordable machines that cost more than a typical 10 inch netbook, but less than any 3 pound laptop you would have found 2 years ago.

So on that front, I see the lines between netbooks and small notebooks beginning to blur. And that makes sense, because really, netbooks are just small notebooks. They tend to lack optical disc drives, have slow processors, and low price tags. But they’re still notebooks.

The other trend is the blurring of the lines between netbooks and smartphones. Leading this charge are companies developing mini-laptops based on ARM processors from companies like Qualcomm and Freescale. These processors are similar to the ones found in smartphones like the iPhone. They run slower than most netbook and notebook CPUs, but the latest ARM chips are capable of handling HD video playback and some other high performance tasks. They also have features like integrated support for WiFi, always-connected 3G connections, and GPS.

The problem with these ARM-based machines, which Qualcomm likes to call “smartbooks,” is that they don’t run Windows. Instead, they’ll likely ship with various Linux options, Google Android, or Windows CE. And while companies are working hard on custom Linux distributions to make smartbooks as easy to use as a cellphone, they’re not cellphones. Like netbooks, they’re little computers.

Now, if we lived in a world where it was impossible to surf the web, check your email, or update Twitter from your cellphone, I could see smartbooks taking off big time. Telephone companies can sell these cheap little laptops for around $199 and charge customers $40 to $60 a month for high speed wireless internet access. The problem is that you can do those things on your cellphone, and that $40 to $60 a month will likely be on top of the money you’re already paying for a voice and/or data plan on your cellphone. And that makes Smartbooks far more expensive in the long run than a typical laptop or netbook.

John Morris at ZDNet agrees. He’s written a rather thoughtful piece on five big issues with ARM and Android netbooks. In addition to the price issue, he’s concerned about performance, the look and feel of the operating system, storage capacity, and hardware and software compatibility. I think that last one is a biggie. Because when you hand people a cellphone they don’t expect it to run Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, or other Windows applications. When you hand them a Linux based device that looks just like a small laptop and tell them “ is just as good,” some people will be happy with that. Others, not so much.

On the other hand, I’m a bit of a luddite when it comes to 3G data plans. I live in a major metropolitan area and I don’t have much trouble finding coffee shops and libraries with free WiFi access. So when I’m working away from the office, I rarely need a 3G modem, and don’t see any reason to pay $40 to $60 a month for one. I don’t even have a data plan on my cellphone. But I realize that not everyone feels the way I do. Some people want or need the ability to check their email from a bus or train, or when they’re walking down the street. And as hard as cellphone makers and software companies try to make that a pleasant experience on cellphones with 2 or 3 inch screens, nothing beats a laptop with a full QWERTY keyboard and 1024 x 600 pixel or higher resolution display for surfing the web. So maybe smartbooks really are the future… not necessarily of netbooks, but of smartphones?

What do you think? Would you be willing to carry around two devices? A cellphone and a smartbook? Would you rather have a smartphone and a netbook? Or how about netbook that folds up to fit in your pocket, and maybe doubles as a smartphone to boot?

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42 replies on “Why ARM based Smartbooks might fail… and why they might not”

  1. I find the ARM smartbook ideal for children in school. Why because they don’t want to carry around a heavy netbook. Event 1kg (~2lb) is too much for a little girl or it may lead to problems with her back. ARM machines has the potential to go lower in weight than intel netbooks. Children may not have access to enough sockets to charge during the day, here ARM excels once again.

    The same argument applies to students.

  2. I already have a lap burning intel notebook. I am very much interested in an arm based netbook running ubuntu. Something that can be run all day on a single charge that doesn’t double as a furnace. If I could find one with a narrow wide screen using nvidias chipset they developed to go with an arm processor that can handle games and hi-def video, I would be thrilled.

  3. I think the reason netbook are getting bigger with bigger screens is the fact Windows Xp, Windows Vista, Windows 7 isn’t designed to work well witht he size of screen with the pixel density they packed in.

    This is why smartbooks will work better in the 6″ – 9″ range. They will have an OS with a front end designed specifically to work on a screen that size.

    DO people need Microsoft Windows? No not really but some belive they do. Just think of all the Media Players, Satellite and cable boxes, TV’s, MP3 players, SatNav’s etc.. etc.. Do people go ah but it doesn’t run Windows? No! they look at whether the device does what they want it to do.

    If you go to the public and don’t mention OS. And say look. It browses, It edit’s office documents and you can save them so you can use them on your work PC, It plays HD video (and with the HDMI you get 1080p), It will play HD video for the whole flight from UK to US on one charge, It has built in Data capability, Wi-fi, media players, photo editing software…

    Forget Games as TBH the market on this size of device isn’t huge for 3d games and even if you had Windows on an atom you wouldn’t be playing games. However, Tegra has shown it’self quite capable of producing some nice 3D grfx so will be great for some classic titles re-releases.

    A lot of us techy’s may care what the OS is. Genaral public are not so bothered. It’s the half informed ones who belive they need Windows that will not buy them.

    I know these will sell well. And when they sell well any gaps in the software available will be very quickly filled.

    The tegra devices would do well to position their devices as a crossover between a netbook and a portable media player as it fits with both these tasks brilliantly. And if it can do the other tasks like edit a photo etc.

    Nvidia are you listening????? A $199 device that could be used to display RAW photographs would be superb… Photographers the world over would love a small portable device with long battery that would allow them to preview their RAW photographs. And at $150-199 they would buy one to use while out and about becuse if it gets broken it is easilly replaced. Also the ARM machines would be better suited to this as there are no cooling vents for dust, muck or other stuff to get inside.

    So Nvidia, You have the tegra, and have shown the GPU to be quite usefull doing 1080p. Get your finger out and get some software that will allow photo editing. But more important than that some image viewing software that will allow previewing of RAW photos. Optomised for the GPU and make it fast/snappy to use…

    The ability to play HD and output 1080p will already make it usefull to preview video from the latest crop of DSLR’s that shoot 1080p, If you added RAW it would make it the choice for so many photographers. And you just know when it starts appearing in photographers kit bags everyone amateur photographer will want one.

  4. Good article, Brad. Fair and balanced. I’m one of the promoters of the smartbook concept as I run the consumer marketing group at Freescale. We’ve done extensive research on users and have found that a certain age group – primarily 10-20 years old (give or take a few years either way) – is very open to a larger screen device that is primarily an internet consumption device and secondarily an entertainment media playback device. This age group spends upwards of 7 hours a day online for (mostly) entertainment and social purposes. This group has not already been “wintel-ed” and is comfortable with other user interfaces. Only time will tell, but I think the industry is working on the right products – many which will be available later this year – that are going to be successful. We’re not replacing computers, we’re adding another device with larger screens on which to enjoy the internet.

    1. I am really looking forward to seeing these devices hit the market. I have an Acer Aspire One 10″ model with 6 cell battery running Fedora. I really like it. I want a vertical resolution higher than 600 though. First manufacturer to bring an ARM-based “netbook” or whatever you want to call it with a usable keyboard (need to be able to switch keys around to accomodate DVORAK keyboard layout) and a res of 1024×768 or better with a battery life of 8+ hrs gets my business…

  5. I’m not down with this whole “smartbook” thing. The whole reason I like caring a netbook is because it has the versatility of being a full fledged PC. My EEE came with Xandros, and I tried it out for a while. I got a couple applications I liked running on it and that was OK. Eventually I said, this is cool, but with XP I could be doing a lot more. Ever since I switched the use for it has really opened up. I wouldn’t even consider buying something that wasn’t x86 compatible now.

    Smartphones are cool. I have the new HTC Magic running Android so I bought a nice data plan. It’s awesome being able to get internet access anywhere and I will never go back. Always online is the future. However I have noticed a couple things from this experience. I really don’t think Android is up to the challenge of being on a smartbook. It’s nice and flashy, but its really been designed as a simple OS for touch navigation. It doesn’t have anywhere near as much customizability as say Windows Mobile. I would never recommend running it instead of a full OS, if that was an option. That being said maybe the versions of Android will be so customized and decked out that it won’t really be “Android” anymore. If that is the case why not just use a real distro of linux?

    I have gotten way off topic. Anyway, they may take off, but not with me. They are just too limited and when I have a PC sized device I will demand a PC experience. I can put up with limitations on a small phone, but not with a netbook/smartbook.

    1. I really do wonder what this ‘PC experience’ is. I mean, with a device that is small enough to fit into you’re satchel that costs less than $200, and all you need it for is for surfing the net, word processing, reading e-books, and other low cpu tasks, what more could you want?

      To pass our time on the train we may have previously carried a couple of magazines and/or a good book, we could just take a small light netbook. The success of Amazon’s Kindle shows how much there is a market for smaller more limited devices.
      For those who want to do high-cpu tasks, I suspect that the current netbooks won’t be good enough for that anyway. I mean why on earth would you want to do photoshop, 3D modeling or flash animation on a tiny netbook? Surely you normally require at least a 14″ monitor for such activities to be a worthwhile expenditure of time?

      I already have a 15.4″ laptop, but don’t want to carry it around with me everywhere due to size and weight. I don’t want a huge bulge in my jean pocket due to carrying a bulky ‘smartphone’ and normally I carry a stylish A4/Letter sized shoulder case anyway. So a cheap, light-weight and simple netbook with an 9″ screen is ideal for this.

      Here, the cost and size are the the most important factors. I don’t want to be shelling out a lot for another ‘laptop’, but I have a real requirement for carrying a small, lightweight ‘laptop-like’ device with me wherever I go.

      1. PC experience will mean different things for different people. For me, it means the ability to run Windows. If I am out and about and I end up having to troubleshoot a switch, I want to know that I can easily install WireShark or whatever else I want and not have to worry about compatibility with whatever “lite” OS is on there. I know there are physical sacrafices like optical drive and screen space, but when it comes to software, if capable, it should run Windows.

        Now, to a linux user, the “PC Experience” would probably mean a distro of linux that they are familiar with. Because linux can scale to different processors, I doubt they would be opposed to a Smartbook.

        The smaller the device and the more features available the better. If I could get more functionality in a device a couple inches bigger, then that is what I will do.

  6. I don’t like the smartbook size (between cellphone and netbook).

    Personally, a well-specced cellphone, with 3G etc and a 10″ netbook or so suits me.

    A netbook, like mentioned above, needs to be a small computer, with full apps and keyboard. Even 7″ netbooks just seem a little too small for a real computer. The cellphone has its limits, which are expected, and acceptable.

    1. Yes, on second thoughts I see the following happening.

      Mobile phones get more basic, but more rugged and include features such as solar powered charging, water and shock resistance and a smaller form factor than the smart-phones we see today. These would run anything that works.

      Netbooks take over from internet surfing capabilities of smartphones and are typically sized between 7″ and 11″, are very slim and light-weight and would tupically run Linux based OSs (Moblin, Android Ubuntu-NR etc) and so would be inexpensive to purchase.

      And you’ll have small laptops sized between 11″ and 14″ running Windows, OSX, or Linux.

      1. I hope this comes to pass. This would work for me.

        (P.S. I hope “pumpkin slayer” is not an ethnic threat or, if it is, care will be taken to avoid profiling 😉

      2. Such mobile phones are available, never went away (the closest one to what you describe is probably Nokia 1208, $30 without contract; minus solar of course, but is there really a point when it gets 2 weeks of standby and YOU KEEP YOU CELLPHONE IN YOUR POCKET?)

  7. I see a trend moving away from the ‘do-everything’ devices, to more specific devices based on their strengths.

    Mobile phones will be used only for telephonic communications (including skype and SIP etc), taking photos and audio playback but NOT for surfing the net. Thus the size and weight of the phone would go back to being the smallish devices they used to be, and not the bulky ‘do-everything’ devices we see today. And because these mobiles will not try to ‘do-everything’ they would require less power and can be solar powered.

    For surfing the net, reading e-books, video playback, word processing and low cpu tasks, one would use a small netbook or Kindle-like device which would be between 7 and 9 inches in size (small enough to carry around wherever we go). These could run off ARM or MIPS hardware with a Linux-based OS (Android, Ubuntu, Moblin etc).

    For those who require more demanding applications (Graphic design etc), you would carry around a small laptop which would be between 10 and 13 inches. In this scenario, both the laptop and desktop could be most likely running Windows 7 or Apple OS X.

    In all scenarios, there is going to be a rationalization of what a phone can and can’t do well enough for normal use.

  8. why r u people blabbing about carrying two devices? the new netbooks come with sim card slots that u can remove from one to the other. none of this phone that slides into netbook mumbo jumbo is necessary.

    1. So convenient too, typically, tucked in behind the battery or whatever – that is, assuming you can find a SIM that works economically for both.

    2. Verizon and Sprint (US) and a lot of Asian providers (EV-DO) don’t use SIM cards.

  9. Not a huge fan of the growing size of the netbooks.

    I have a 13 inch mac and a 9 inch Dell Mini and they are not the same size. The Dell fits in my winter coat and I drag it with me everywhere.

    Well be buying another netbook soon and its gonna be 9 or 10 inches.

    The reason I want ARM and MIPS and all the other architectures is that I want the 200$ gift.
    Our Dell cost 359$, my sister bought an Acer for 329$ plus our 16% sales tax and we went for under 400$ with no extra like sleave, SD card and USB stick.
    Nice but instead of prices dropping past 300$, they are still keepin the same range just makin screen bigger or storage bigger.

    I want that 199$ 8 or 9 inch netbook that we could buy for the nieces or just keep in the car.
    I use my Dell to record some audio stuff and edit with Audacity and get good usage but when the wife goes to the kids practices, she is either on the browser or check her email, so she could easily do with an even lower powered netbook for her net based use.

    As for OS, our netbook was our first experience with Linux almost a year ago. Since then we have tried a few of them and have now installed Kubuntu on the netbook, Mandriva on our desktops as dual boots and on the Mac where we triple boot.
    Having used every Win OS since 3.1, this was no harder than using a Mac or any other Win incarnation these past 3 years.

    As my eldest says when asked if he prefers Gnome or KDE desktops: “Who cares as long as you find the program you need?”

    Well daddy does son because half a dozen computers means a lot of money for licenses that we can spend elsewhere.

  10. I would say that right now arm based netbooks are a dark horse. They could win big, or they could fall flat. But pointing to a lack of windows or specific category of apps and say “this is why it will fail/thrive” is at best a guessing game, at worst, voodoo-style predictions.

    There is a saying i picked up somewhere, “the street will find its own use for technology”.

    The big problem is that a lot of observers right now are either fully pro, or maybe prosumers, where specialized needs, workflows and interests leads to a focus on established apps and platforms.

    1. Btw, if someone wants to see a arm netbook in the works right now, take a look at celio redfly hooked up to a winmob phone.

  11. I’m frankly puzzled by all the people writing off ARM-based netbooks-not-smartbooks as unable to compete head to head against Wintel-based ones. Out of the “five big issues” that Morris has with ARM netbooks, four of them look completely bogus to me.

    And that leaves us with issue number 3: the fact that they won’t run Windows. People now — suddenly, inexplicably — start talking about Windows as if it were a wonder OS that people just can’t live without, rather than a bloated, unreliable, insecure pig of an OS.

    What happened? Did some of you actually buy into the lies that Microsoft spun about the marketplace rejecting Linux on netbooks?

    I contend that people just don’t care that much about the OS, as long as it gets the job done. They care about the OS in the same way they care about their refrigerator. When it doesn’t work, then it becomes a concern, and not sooner. Today’s Linux works about as well as Windows, on the whole. If buyers find they can get ARM+Linux netbooks that are cheaper, or thinner and lighter, or sporting much longer battery life than X86+Windows netbooks, then I predict they will choose ARM.

  12. Over the past year I have toyed and teased about the idea of these devices be modular. This is smart because why carry two devices with processors, memory, storage devices when what you want is one device that has many options for uses depending on what you want to do…or carry.

    You start with two or three smart phone designs that are about as powerful as an Atom processor netbook. They have a 3″- 5″ screens, 4GB to 32GB of flash storage, and a I/O slots. So the buyer has a choice of getting an inexpensive yet functional smart phone all the way up to a high end slick smart phone. [Price $200-$500]

    Then sell three or four screen, keyboard, storage, and big battery add-ons as frames. You slip the smart phone in the back of these dumb netbook frames and now your smart phone is larger device. One frame would be a nice touch screen tablet, one frame a typical 10″ netbook design, the final one a 11″ screen high-end frame with a DVD drive.[Price $200-$450]

    It sort of a mix & match system all the smart phones fit all of the frames so you could match the low end phone with the high end frame. Or high with high, low with low, or whatever you want. The phone does the brute work, the frame just supplies input/output and added storage.

    1. Aside from marketing preventing that from happening, you don’t appreciate how hard & expensive it would be to built connectors between those modules to last – and in a way that they would nicely snap together without looking amateurish. Most of those “hybrids” would just stay in the same, “final” form…might as well get one device, will be sturdier, lighter and smaller.

      And separate cellphone just for calling & sms…you REALLY want reliability in a phone. And cheapest one costs a little over $20 right now, without contract.

  13. Not sure this is up to date and not so well informed….

    Tegra running CE has firefox 3.5 running, Linux also has firefox so how is there going to be any problem updating twitter? One of the comments using a ppc to hunt for bits of webpages.. really?… again firefox! never mind even on a current CE device with 800×480 IE displays nice complete web pages.

    I have already seen a version of the early non x86 netbooks (looks like either the xburst or the arm one made by same manufacturer) has been picked up by datawind and they are selling them with 1years mobile browsing built in to the price.

    You see I don’t want a slightly small laptop with large 6 cell battery to get long useage time. I want somthing small and portable that will last all day. However, I would be very pleased if these devices are not just available through a cellphone provider but can also be purchased retail.

    Although tegra’s cpu is slower seeing how well firefox runs and hearing how keen they are working to get other big name software working on the platform (with gpu acceleration) I will likely go for one of them.

    But it will become even more interesting when 2010 brings dual core cortex A9 machines (well I suppose even more cores are possible).


    1. < "Not sure this is up to date and not so well informed…."

      I definitely resemble this remark 😉

      < "One of the comments using a ppc to hunt for bits of webpages…"

      That's me too, but I was talking about my frustrations using an iPAQ and XV6700, both with Windows Mobile and only 240 x 320 screens and just hoping that the new devices will stear totally clear of that extreme. I wish it was possible to put Linux and Firefox on one of these.

  14. Software compatibility may be in issue for current adult computer users, but it is not a particular issue for K-12 students who, for the most part, lack any individual access to computers at school. Issues of importance for K-12 education are battery life (needs to last the whole school day), portability (who wants small kids to carry around a heavy laptop all day), and, first and foremost, cost. Produce a $175 smartbook that access the Internet (including video), runs standard office applications (e.g., Open Office or equivalent alternatives), weighs under 2 pounds, has a 9-10″ screen, and has 8 hour battery life — and school districts will start snapping them up when the current recession eases.

    1. Totally agreed (it’s the same reason some journalists still use Psion 5MX’s and Jornada 720’s – essecially war zone ones etc.)

      Though I would be happier with a 7″ widescreen with almost no bezel and a touchscreen instead of trackpad. This would mean it would be possible to almost have a device that would fit in an inside coat pocket like my Sigmarion 3 does.

  15. Why carry a cellphone and a future 3G or greater netbook? Just carry the netbook, use BlueTooth headset you’d use with cellphone with notebook. Why should cell phone look like a phone? duh. Instead of trying to build computer into phone, just add a freakin’ phone to computer (netbook/UMPC/whatever). I like my BB Storm, but I’ll give it up in an instant for a proper ARM Cortex A9 MPCore (like TI’s OMAP 4440) in netbook form factor, preferably as a slate that uses bluetooth to connect headset (for cellphone function) and folding keyboard and Bluetooth trackball.

    1. That sounds great, but I’d still like to sometimes use a smaller, tougher phone, for example, while running, mowing, grocery shopping, working on car, etc. Ideally I should be able to just take the SIM card out of a netbook and put it in a small phone with no changes whatever in rates or charges, but that’ll never happen for me unless I at least get rid of my Verizon contract.

  16. I think smartbooks will have a better shot if the 3G + data plan is OPTIONAL. Then you aren’t excluding people that would pick up a cheap 3rd device as long as it isn’t a $1200 service commitment…

    I am actually moving towards a 3 device model… replacing my 15″ notebook with a 17″ workstation slab, replacing the netbook with a ion book for mobile work and grabbing a smartbook for surfing + cloud. 😀

  17. Seems like somebody once had a netbook design with a built-in 3G cellphone which contained the netbook’s 3G, wifi, and BT radios, etc. You could just slide out the phone when you wanted to leave the netbook behind.

    A specialized design like this would be expensive, but it would be worth it if it kept you for having to have two data plans.

    1. Alas the two data plans thing is exactly why this wouldn’t happen. Already, you can easily tether a netbook to a mobile phone via Bluetooth, USB or whatever, and share a contract. But the telcos hate you doing that and try to charge substantially extra for the privilege – to the point in some cases that you might as well have a second contract.

      Why sell you just the one contract when they can fleece you for two?

      The reason we have USB dongles and so on is not because we need them from a technological standpoint, but to satisfy business models.

  18. I like to have my cellphone separate from my surfing device. I wouldn’t want to have my netbook with me while working in the yard or shopping in a store, but would need my cellphone to receive calls. My wife prefers a Windows Mobile PPC-phone, but I’d be afraid I’d ding it, get it wet, etc.

    Also, so few sites have mobile gateways that I quickly lose patience trying to surf with a PPC and hunt for pieces of the web page.

    I hope the ARM netbook makers forget the smartphone trappings and make their smartbooks as much like netbooks as reasonable. But I don’t think they need to run Photoshop or maybe even Powerpoint (debatable).

    I’ve been worried about how “always-on 3G” will affect data plan prices. If they would come with a $20/month data plan with unlimited surfing, I’d snap one up in a minute. I’d probably do the same with a $25 plan, but don’t tell them that 🙂

    1. I agree that we are now looking for different devices for different purposes. I would imagine carrying a small mobile phone which is solar powered, and water-resistant. This could be used for taking calls, listening to the radio/mp3’s and maybe also taking photos. Thats it.

      When indoors, (in a bus, in a coffee shop, waiting at the doctors office), I would use whip out my netbook from my satchel (like I would have done with a book or magazine in the past). This netbook would be used for surfing the ‘net’, reading e-books and other low-cpu tasks.

  19. ARM-based smartbooks = fail.

    Why? Because of the manufacturers’ desire to avoid a race to the bottom.

    1. You are right and wrong. You are probably correct that notebook makers, Intel and Microsoft fear a race to the bottom. You are wrong to assume they are the only players with a vote.

      Cellphone makers and carriers have thrived in a world of $9.99 phones. If they can get people to sign a 3G contract they will give them a smartbook/netbook if that is what it takes.

      Then there are the consumer electronics players who are almost sure to join in on the netbook/smartbook fun. At $199 and dropping the lowball guys who stack up $24.99 DVD players in the big box stores can get in the game and they are accustomed to banking profits at margins even Dell would go broke at.

      The genie is out of the bottle, people know these things can be made. If there are people who will buy a device that runs all day but doesn’t run Windows somebody will be there to sell them.

      And really, isn’t it time for a reality check? As these things fall towards $99.99 who cares if they can run Photoshop or Office? Does anyone really believe someone will buy a license for Office to run on a $99.99 or even $149.99 device? Or are all wink wink nudge nudgeing and assuming they would pirate it?

      p.w. I’m not the John Morris mentioned above, I don’t work for ZD.

      1. Perhaps, but I’m very convinced that I am correct. The current netbook market provides evidence to support that. Asus came out with the 701 and ever since prices have risen on netbooks across the board and across manufacturers. No viable manufacturer challenged that trend.

        As for those $9.99 cellphones, they are attached to 2 year contracts that guarantee a minimum of $480 of revenue over that 2 year period.

        But we’ll just have to wait and see.

        1. Yes the existing notebook makers, the ones selling 90% of netbooks today, feared the race to bottom the EeePC 701 represented.

          But do the consumer electronics brands? They currently live in a low margin, high volume world and do just fine. If they discomfort Dell or Acer I doubt they will care a lot. This is going to be a cutthroat Xmas season and anything that makes cash registers go Ding! is going to a good thing.

          Take a portable DVD player, upgrade the resolution on the display, rip out the DVD drive and stick a keyboard & pointer in the space and you basically have an ARM netbook/smartbook. The DVD player has a one chip solution as does the ARM computer.

          And exactly my point on the phones. The cell carriers make their money on the monthly access charges and will give away the hardware to get a contract. So you are a cell carrier, what are you going to give away for free, a $400 Windows netbook or a $150 smartbook?

          Put that way the decision is dead simple, the Windows netbook is the upcharge and the smartbook is the base model. But a lot of people actually take the $9.95 cellphone and don’t upgrade to the iPhone or Blackberry and I suspect about the same numbers will find they can live with a smartbook.

          They would rather give out a USB dongle but once one sweetens the deal with a ‘free laptop’ they all have to match it. The prices on the ARM machines are not much more than a cellphone so it just makes sense to hand em out.

        2. Well, the cheapest new cellphone you can get without contract is $24 right now (LG KP100; it even has gprs and usb). Considering it’s the end price and my place usually isn’t the cheapest, it might cost not much more than those $9.99. And it does everything most people need in a cellphone.

          Same thing might work with smartbooks.

          Actually, I might imagine many people realising that simplest cellphone + smartbook might be a better thing that smartphone. Especially when it costs the same.

        3. Prices rose after the 701, but fell soon after. The 701 4G was available for $399, the same price as the pricier netbooks today.

          You could get Dell 901’s all day for $199, which was the original promised pricepoint of the EEE.

  20. There are so many variables it is impossible to know how this will all work out. I expect there will be big winners and big losers in this market. The second wave (razorbook types being the first) of ARMbooks may not do that well but I think the companies that stick with it will get things right by the third wave. Hardware support shouldn’t be too big of a deal as long as ARMbooks can read/write to USB drives and use bluetooth headsets. Software is where the battles will be won or lost.

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