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Await smartbook revolution

Cellphones have given rise to “smartphones” — the ones in which you can download software applications, surf the Internet and shoot pictures, make videos and store loads of songs, besides doing some office email or presentations, writes N Madhavan.

india Updated: Sep 07, 2009 12:39 IST
N Madhavan

Cellphones have given rise to “smartphones” — the ones in which you can download software applications, surf the Internet and shoot pictures, make videos and store loads of songs, besides doing some office email or presentations.

While that makes the handsets become effectively hand-held computers, on the other side, we are seeing the rise of “netbooks” — relatively cheap laptops that help you live the connected life in which more and more activity can be done on the Web, in a “cloud.”

If computing power in your hands defines smartphones, netbooks thrive on the principle of high-bandwidth connectivity, Web storage and the “always-on” Net connection.

So what’s next?

“Smartbooks,” could be the answer, and I got a load of insights on it last week at a dinner-time round-table with Dr Paul Jacobs, chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Qualcomm Inc, the mobile chipset-maker that is leading the technological revolution in third-generation (3G) telephony services in which the might of smart handsets will meet the power of wireless broadband.

Qualcomm and Freescale Semiconductor (an offshoot of Motorola) are spearheading the drive for smartbooks. Early indications are that these machines will cost less than $200 (that’s under Rs 10,000). Equipment manufacture is under way.

Jacobs brandished a thumb-sized contraption that looked like a badly designed wedding ring, and announced to us that it was, in fact, a cellphone — one that will fit in machines that will talk to each other and perform critical functions in sophisticated factories.

“All devices are going to have a phone inside,” Jacobs says, showing us a glimpse of a future in which mobile phone technologies will become more ubiquitous.

Smartbooks turn the logic of smartphones upside down. They are like slim laptops with SIM cards inside. Since they use the battery power of a laptop, they have fewer problems with energy management.

In the current framework, there are many things one can do with a Net-connected smartphone but the convenience of mobility is reduced by the inconvenience of the teeny keyboard, low battery power or a small, low-definition screen. Smartbooks can eliminate all such constraints. They can also be designed somewhat like Amazon’s e-book reader Kindle, giving us a new Net device.

Think of this: you can sit in the middle of a garden and be on live video-conference with your cousins or colleagues half way across the planet, handling both with the ease with which some of us switch between office-mail and a news site on a tabbed Internet browser. USB modems connected to laptops are somewhat similar, but smartbooks combined with 3G services can multiply the capabilities.