Qualcomm Admits: Smartbook Product Category Is Dead

Smartbook Computers Fail to Achieve Any Popularity

by Anton Shilov
09/09/2010 | 11:56 PM

Qualcomm, a leading developer of system-on-chip (SoC) products, admitted that ARM-based systems in clamshell form-factor - which the company itself called smartbooks* once - have not met the expectations and are essentially dead.


During the company’s IQ 2010 event earlier this week Qualcomm's chief executive officer Paul Jacobs confirmed that the smartbooks product category was dead since slates like Apple iPad and upcoming rivals had already occupied the niche Qualcomm expected smartbooks to, reports SlashGear web-site. Tablet personal computers are "always-on, all-day devices" and it does not look like smartbooks can fit into that market.

The fundamental issue with smartbooks is that they are supposed to be based on Linux operating system, which was not too successful with netbooks. However, when it comes to tablets with specifically tailored operating environment along with touch-screen input, Linux may well have a chance. Moreover, since people tend to expect more from clamshell form-factor devices, smartbooks are unlikely to deliver to expectations, meanwhile, the demands from tablets will be much lower, partly because one will hardly use many applications or demanding applications on them. Finally, slate PCs are more suitable for consumption of multimedia content on the go, basic web-browsing or reading electronic books than clamshell PCs and everything shows that e-books and multimedia are gaining market acceptance.

“We see more tablet projects in the works than smartbooks, but the clamshell form-factor is still viable for consumers with heavy text input on the web (email, IM chat). It is subjective, so both tablets and smartbooks will have market acceptance via segmentation,” said Bill Henry, director of Tegra product management at Nvidia, in an interview earlier this year.

As a result, going forward Qualcomm itself is likely to tailor its SoCs for slates. Obviously, some companies on the emerging markets can still use them for smartbooks, but the developed world has made its choice: tablets and smartphones.

*While we do understand that the company called Smartbook AG owns the appropriate trademark in certain countries, in this particular article we use the term “smartbook” to refer to mobile computers in clamshell form-factors that are powered by ARM architecture-based microprocessors or system-on-chip devices.