green vertical smartbook

Smartbook from Freescale – Competition For The Mini Laptops?


red smartbook

Even as people await the release of the much-speculated tablet from Apple, Freescale has come out with the Smartbook that could be a competition for the low-cost mini laptops.

Smartbook is a combined effort of Freescale Semiconductor and Arm Holdings. The company is marketing the smartbook as a new category of computing devices that can be squeezed somewhere between the smartphone and the PC-like notebook or netbook.

Freescale Semiconductor is a leading manufacturer of embedded semiconductors for the consumer, industrial, automotive and networking markets. The company is based in Texas and has several research and development, design, manufacturing and sales outlets spread over the world.

Rich Beyer, Freescale CEO said, “Netbooks based on Intel’s Atom processor and Microsoft Windows simply replicate the PC experience, they are just notebooks in a smaller format. The Smartbook is a different experience, something between a small screen phone and a PC.”

The biggest selling points for the Smartbook are said to be its instant-start feature, intuitive interface and long battery life.

gray smartbook


The company has commissioned several prototypes by entering into a deal with a leading North American industrial design program. These prototypes were displayed at the Computex show in Taiwan.

– One that unfolds to offer a keyboard and mouse

– A sleek smartbook with a touchscreen display

– A device that enables customization

– Smartbook with sliding keypads

– A sleek prototype featuring vertical display

green vertical smartbook


Created with an unusual design, the smartbook stands tall as it is meant for vertical displays, and unfolds into several pieces, allowing users to use a keyboard and mouse. There is the option to slide the keypad out from both sides of the smartbook.

smartbook with sliding keypads


This 409 gm lightweight product sports a 5-inch screen, which is larger than the smartphone device, has 512 MB memory and 4 GB flash storage device that can be extended. When the smartbook was launched in Japan by Sharp Electronics recently, there have been mixed reviews. But there is one thing everyone agrees to, and that is – it takes no more than 3 seconds to boot and the battery lasts as long as ten hours.

Freescale is also working closely with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) on a program that explores all the requirements, such as user interfaces, ergonomic issues, form factors and also accessories for new age smartbook devices.

A marketing director of Freescale states, “As the smartbook market emerges, new form factors and product categories will evolve to support and better align with user needs, and our engagement with SCAD demonstrates Freescale’s intention to lead this evolution. This initiative has given Freescale valuable insight into how end-users prefer to interact with smartbooks, and this knowledge will be fed back into our chip design processes, ultimately resulting in future i.MX processors that enable compelling consumer experiences and entirely new classes of consumer devices.”

leather smartbook


This product uses Freescale’s iMX processor and targets youngsters who are internet-savvy and expect instant access to the Net, visit the social networking sites, check out YouTube clips or watch movies. It runs the Linux operating system as Windows loads slower and is not the best interface for all these activities.

A full-featured smartbook currently will be priced at $480 in Japan, but according to the CEO, it is expected to be available in the market for around $199 within a year’s time. The manufacturers believe that it will prove to be a challenge to netbooks once it hits the lower price point, especially in countries where netbooks are not doing as well as expected solely due to the higher price.

Smartbook Network Systems has created a video conferencing application for the smartbook. A camera has been inbuilt into the smartbook and it allows users to use the video chat feature using the Smartlink application, similar to how Skype is used. The video quality is said to be very good and the images are expected to be even better by the time the product is perfected. The company says that only half the power of the processor is being used currently.

Freescale is devoting a large share of its market budget to smartbooks and hopes to meet the increasing demand for handy ultra-portable devices. Only time will tell how well they are accepted.

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