Smartbook Playing Field Wide Open for Linux

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There's been a lot of technology predictions for the upcoming year, with Linux playing a big part in the future direction of tech. Fortunately, we won't have to wait long to see how some of those predictions will play out: it's just a mere three more days until the start of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Even before the 2010 CES show starts on January 7, as early as tomorrow, Jan. 5, Google is expected to formally announce their upcoming smartphone, the Nexus One. Nexus One, rumored to be based on HTC's Passion device, is expected to be sold with complete Google branding and a pure Android platform. More importantly, Google may be planning to sell the device as an unlocked GSM phone, which means anyone can buy the device and then get a calling plan separately with any carrier they want with a compatible GSM network.


Beyond that, as if that would not be big enough news, look for more Android-based offerings--from phones to tablet devices--showing up at the CES event proper.

In the meantime, a new buzzword may be dominant at the Vegas electronics show: smartbooks. First seen from Sharp in November with their NetWalker PC-71 device, these handhelds are, as you might expect from the name, somewhere between a smartphone and a netbook. These ultra-small devices are always connected to the Internet via 3G cellular networks and will provide productivity apps, via their Linux platforms, for users.

Even though this class of device was out last fall, the big reveals will be staged at CES later this week, from Qualcomm and Sharp, to name two manufacturers. With ARM-based chips and Linux as the OS reducing the costs of these devices, analysts are predicting that if smartbooks are accepted by consumers, smartbooks could become real profit generators for hardware makers.

Curiously, there won't be much competition for Linux-based mobile offerings at CES. Apple isn't expected to announce its rumored tablet device until January 26, and Windows Mobile continues to struggle with declining market share.

This decline in Windows Mobile is interesting, because it seems to belie one of the main arguments against Linux on mobile devices: that Linux devices are limited in their functionality by their lack of applications.

This argument was most recently framed in a Wall Street Journal article about the rise of smartbooks at CES, which felt the need to highlight a caveat about these devices: "But smartbooks running Linux or its offshoots, such as Google Inc.'s Android, won't run applications like Microsoft Word or Apple's iTunes. Early netbooks that ran Linux ran into customer resistance and were quickly replaced with Windows-based models."

Which is followed up by this rather expected comment: "'Customers will likely continue to choose Windows netbook PCs over Linux smartbooks for these same reasons,' predicts Ben Rudolph, a Microsoft senior manager for Windows." Learn more

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Lavanya said...
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nice post....

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