back to article Smartbook done to death by Apple iPad

Wondering what happened to all those ARM-based netbooks we were promised last year would be the Next Big Thing? According to the boss of chip maker Qualcomm, the iPad killed 'em. Not in so many words, of course, but CEO Paul Jacobs, speaking at the company's IQ conference in London this week, did say that tablets, as …


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Yet another thing to hate Apple and its Fanbois for.

I have been awaiting, admittedly with some scepticism, the arrival of the new Linux+ARM Netbooks with some excitement since they were first mentioned -- now it seems I'll never be able to buy one.


As have I


Sincerely hope you're wrong though.

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How odd-

I've just bought a 7" netbook- not an iPad, and an Android phone- not an iPhone.

But I do have things to do...


How I hate marketing driven gaps ...

Whatever happened to simple segmentation of devices and market needs?

Laptop = Business capable computing tool

Netbook = Mobile 'lightweight' business capable computing tool

Tablet = Mobile infotainment tool

Smartphone = communication tool with lightweight computing capabilities

Personally I cannot see tablets totally replacing computers ... its just that whereas in the past computers were the domain of business, now they have become consumer devices so the consumer market leads and business functionality follows. Apart from a max 1-day trip outside the office, I cannot see a tablet replacing a netbook as the desired lightweight business travel partner.

My guess is once the tablet stuff has settled down, netbooks will re.emerge as 'executive notebooks' for business.

As to how many of the above you own depends on budget and your capabity to manage the synchronisation or belief in 'the cloud'.


Re: How I hate marketing driven gaps ...

Oh but haven't you heard? Market needs are clear - it's all about grandma sitting on the sofa with her grand-children.

There are casualities within Apple's own product line -- Mac Pros aren't worth shit, 30" Cinema Displays are no more, all LCDs have shiny screens because they look better under studio lighting, nobody wants Blu-Ray because poorly compressed itunes 720 is what we *should* be watching, and a slab of glass is exactly what you want to keep in your front jeans pocket next to the family jewels.

Apple's laser-precision focus on Consumerism is killing their own professional line of products. They don't care about creating anything that people with "things to do", which is a shame given those same people are the ones who propped them up for two decades.

Don't complain too much just yet, I'm sure you'll need to keep the best for later; when it gets worse.


Not just the iPad

Smartbooks were mainly killed by being too late. At CeBit 2009, they were promised to arrive in the summer of 2009. If they had done so (or just in time for Christmas sales), they might have had a better chance. But they were delayed and delayed again, and in many cases dropped entirely.

This might have partially been due to technical issues, but since, for example, Always Innovating (which is a very small company) managed to get their Touch Book out in 2009, I can't believe that the big companies couldn't do the same. Some people (e.g., David Manners) have suggested that Intel's Market Development Fund had something to do with it. Intel have been convicted of using their MDF to keep competitors out of the market (e.g. by paying Dell huge bonuses if they refrained from using AMD processors in their products), and the netbook market was very lucrative to Intel, so it makes sense that Intel would want to keep ARM out of this market.

In any case, you can attach a keyboard to a tablet (by wire or Bluetooth) to make it do much the same as a smartbook, so it matters little if smartbooks have mutated into tablets before their birth.

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But but but....

Isn't an Android tablet really just an ARM-powered smartbook + touchscreen - keyboard?

There's really very so little difference in the hardware or software layer that I think it's fairer to say that the iPad changed the shape of the smartbook.

Am I arguing semantics?

I don't think so. The smartbook's big challenge was always going to be convincing people that it wasn't just a second-rate computer that didn't run Windows. (Cf. Linux on 1st gen netbooks, vs virtual Windows hegemony now.)

If the modern tablets are just reworkings of smartbook architecture, then by giving the public a non-Windows referent, the iPad may actually have *saved* the smartbook, rather than killing it.


I want an ARM *NETBOOK*

"Isn't an Android tablet really just an ARM-powered smartbook + touchscreen - keyboard?"

Well, I just so happen to like the netbook form (ie a real keyboard) not a 'smartbook' ipad form, so that's the big difference.


ARM Netbook?

I thought there's tons of them coming from China now. All equipped with either ARM-based Linux distros or WinCE.

Although they're going to need to throw out that 7" PSTN LCD display for something slightly bigger and better. Those available now looks like one of those glorified kiddie laptops with a huge border around such a small screen.


Depends what you want to do

If you want something that works like a big mobile phone (a Moby-phone?), get an iPad.

If you want something that works like a cut-down PC, get a netbook.

If you want something glossy and money's not an issue, get an iPad.

If you want something that's cheap and gives you value for money, get a netbook.

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@Depends what you want to do

"If you want something that works like a big mobile phone (a Moby-phone?), get an iPad."

Which we could then have fun with, renaming it the "iDick". What about the slogan "you'll have a whale of a time with your iDick"?


I want a smartbook, though.

The format has the things I actually want:

- It's a netbook, but it isn't a shitty x86-based crapware. It's ARM!

- It can have a real OS, either Nokia's experimental MeeGo or some Linux flavor.

- It isn't locked-down by anyone.

Unfortunately, they took too much time to release 'em and the iPad does seem to have stolen the thunder of these devices. However, I also think that there is still market for smartbooks; I really hope they do pick up, as they would take over both Intel and MS.


And margins on laptops

The tablet embrasure, while certainly a choke-hold on netbook/smartbook sales, is as much an excuse to slow the defection away from full notebooks as a "main" machine. When many people bought a netbook as their "on-the-road" computer, either for work, school or trips to Starbucks, the subsequently did not need a "real" laptop anymore.

Now that these new "tablet" computers have entered the scene, the need for a "real" portable computer has returned. Spend the US$600 or so on a tablet (justified by replacing BOTH your netbook AND Kindle) and then spend another US$900 on a large-screen laptop that mainly sits on your desk, but COULD be taken to school or the coffee shop.

And, of course, the vendors are loving it: high-margin tablet PLUS a high-margin laptop! Sweet!


People are idiots.

Let's get things straight. Apple didn't kill the tablet, it was already dead.

Tablets died in the 90's a natural death. It appears people didn't want them anymore.

Now, Apple thought it could bring them back, entirely through marketing.

And some other idiot manufacturers thought they'd try to get on the bandwagon too.

Ones who should know better...

Turns out, people weren't interested after all.

Shock horror. I'm surprised that anyone is surprised it didn't die sooner.


now, Where do I put my smartbook?

the ipad has virtually knocked my dell mini off my radar. To be honest, I tend to forget that I have a netbook lying somewhere. The ipad does solve my main need from the mini. Casual Web browsing on the bed and couch.

the mini is slow and extremely cumbersome to use with its minuscule mouse-pad. Try scrolling through a popular el reg comments page on your netbook to see what i mean. To connect an external mouse/kb, sort of defeats the portability aspect.

However If i want to get some work done, instead of wasting my time for the mini to boot up and barely be able to run XP without having panic attacks... would rather fire up my 17" monster notebook.

Now why do I need an ipad when the notebook has a perfectly serviceable splashtop OS installed as quick boot? Portability, again.

I tend to think i am like most of the non tech commoners with some amount of dough, limited though, to splurge on these kind of devices. Coz its exactly people like me whom these companies are targeting. Not enterprises, not techies. But commoners.

Now why do i need a smartbook in between a desktop-replacement notebook, a 3G ipad and an ordinary 3G phone when I barely see a place for a smartphone here.

If i were to upgrade, that would be to a 3G phone with a slightly bigger screen - something along the lines of a Dell Streak but definitely never going to be one of those not-here-but-not-there-too 'smartbooks' because my moolah is limited and I want value for what i spend

- coz she sure likes a bit of multi touch!


With All Due Respect

and bearing in mind that I don't have access to the same sorts of data as this chap but nevertheless I would like to tender the possibility that Smartbooks never came to light because with very few exceptions all the companies that announced they were working on them also had a significant interest in the Wintel market and as soon as Wintel got wind of their plans to break out of their headlock their corporate necks were squeezed even tighter.

Just ask Asus how it feels to have your head in an x86 vice if you don't believe me.

"Asus confirmed in October 2009 that it would launch such a machine during Q1 2010."

What happened to that smartbook? If it had have seen the light of day as planned it would have had a head start on the ipad and may have gained some significant traction. The reality is that it was killed in utero and I'm sure we can all work out who the prime suspects are.

If we *ever* see a smartbook released by a name brand then I will eat a bug.

There are plenty of stories from the past couple of years where various companies had demos of arm based smartbooks. Unsurprisingly, not a single one of them have hit the market despite being months, or in some cases years, late.

And this guy is telling us that it is because of the ipad? They still sell Atom based netbooks right? Sure the ipad is eating into that market but that is mostly because the idiots who make them succumbed to the pressure from their Lords and Masters at Wintel HQ and dutifully bloated their products up to the point that they are now overpriced and underpowered mini laptops with no redeeming features whatsoever.

God I am so sick of the IT industry. I've been swimming in this sea of shit for 30 years now and it is just getting slowly and inexorably worse.

Fuck it, is it beer-o-clock yet?

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ARM netbooks killed by lack of RAM and flash

"the mini is slow and extremely cumbersome to use with its minuscule mouse-pad. Try scrolling through a popular el reg comments page on your netbook to see what i mean."

I'm on a Mini right now and it's fine.

"However If i want to get some work done, instead of wasting my time for the mini to boot up and barely be able to run XP"

You are running the WRONG OS on your Mini. XP is not a very well-performing OS anyway, and it's built for generic x86 and not for Atom. The Atom doesn't support out-of-order execution, so it's horrible at running code that is built generically for x86. Mine has Ubuntu netbook edition (which is built *for* Atom) and it runs great.


Anyway, this does suck. I don't want a tablet, I type enough that I want a keyboard -- and I touch type, no crap touch keyboard! The thing that did the ARM netbooks (or smartbooks I guess) in that I've seen so far is the very very low specs -- not CPU speed so much (although it's typically only 500mhz) as a lack of RAM and flash. With 4GB of flash and 256MB of RAM they could run a normal distro on these. But, instead they'll put in 2GB (or even 1GB) of flash and 128MB of RAM, saving what? Like $20? Then they'll put on either WinCE 5.0, with it's out-of-date browser, and hacked up so it can't load other apps... or a very very stripped and out-of-date Linux installl, with some oddball word processor and a Firefox 2.0 *beta* browser installed. They've got them for sale for like $70. I'm telling ya', if they sold one for like $100 instead with the extra flash & RAM in it, it'd probably be pretty nice. But anyway...


nokia n900

hmm, I sometimes login to my office server to run scripts, do some minor editing in vim, and this on my nokia e71 running putty. i'm seriously thinking about the n900 or milestone simply for the wider screen and the fact that running x means I can do a lot more.

Would a tablet pc work for me? I doubt it. But then as stated above, my requirement is different. I was skeptical about cloud based computing at first. But now as bandwidth is more freely available and cheaper I may need to rethink.

In it's present form I don't see tablet pc's including the ipad lasting beyond the fad value. Unless they come up with a ''thought to text'' method of data entry, I simply don't see the demise of the physical keyboard, which is why I think that devices such as the n900 or the milestone are form factors of the future. They just need to hit the sweet spot with regard to the screen resolution and battery life. They're almost there but yet not quite.

anyone who's had a communicator knows what I'm talking about.

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