Smartbook: 3qi, Tegra plus Android

Smart Something is in the air and is about to come down hard on netbooks: smartbooks. True to its name I think smartbooks will be really smart when it comes to maximizing performance without needing a whole lot of power. There are three components that will make up the ultimate smartbook: Pixel Qi’s 3qi display, NVIDIA’s Tegra chipset and Google’s Android OS.

Android Smartbooks will eschew the weakest part of the equation: Windows (or Linux). Instead of these clunky operating systems*, smartbooks will use the lightweight smartphone-geared Android OS from Google. Advanced features such as touch, auto-tilt, etc. can be easily integrated and a good number of developers are coding cool apps as I type. There are some limitations. One glaring one is the lack of background processes. But if Palm can get that to work on the Pre, I’m sure the brains at Google can too.

Tegra Intel Atom? You consume too much energy. Good bye! Welcome Tegra! NVIDIA’s Tegra chipset provides awesome graphics while sipping power. With Tegra you don’t need to compromise graphics performance and you’ll get many more hours to play with your smartbook than if you had an Atom powering it.

Ultra-low-power LCD The last but certainly not least component that needs to change is the display. Current LCDs even with LED backlights consume quite a bit of power. I’d say around 25 to 30 percent of an entire netbook system. Just a hunch. To bring power consumption down considerably there are a couple of options: one is the hope that some day we’ll see an OLED display large enough and cheap enough to be used for $399 netbooks. I’m not holding my breath. The best alternative now to the regular LED-backlit LCD is Pixel Qi’s 3qi display that has two modes. One is full power, full color, transmissive mode. The other is ultra-low-power reflective mode that looks even better than Amazon’s Kindle’s E Ink display.

Losers in this transition from netbook to smartbook? Intel and Microsoft. The winners? Pixel Qi, NVIDIA and Google.

*Big, slow and requiring hefty hardware resources compared to Android, which was designed with smartphones in mind.

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