Before the Ultrabook and before the netbook, there was a pseudo-laptop from Sylvania called the Smartbook. These ran a mobile OS instead of Windows, and were designed to be super cheap Internet devices. Some Smartbooks ran Windows CE, a precursor to Windows Mobile, and eventually some shipped with Android. These Smartbooks didn't have good hardware inside, so they were mostly slow and stripped down laptop wannabes. You probably never saw one in the wild as not very many of these sold.
What kicked off this trip down Smartbook memory lane? This weekend I stopped in my local CVS pharmacy and did a double-take to find the Sylvania Smartbook on the shelf, waiting for a buyer. The price tag was $99.99, and it surprised me to find these beasts still being sold.
A quick web search showed me that CVS is not the only outlet still selling these Sylvania Smartbooks, Sears has them too. This model is about what you would expect, with a Via ARM processor, 256MB of memory, 2GB internal storage, SD slot to handle up to 8GB of external memory, 7-inch display (800x600), keyboard and trackpad. The Windows CE that runs it is Windows CE Embedded 6.0, and it has Microsoft Office viewers for common documents.
I couldn't resist sharing that this is still out there, so buyer beware. When I mentioned this on Twitter, my friend Joanna Stern (@JoannaStern) didn't want to be reminded of them. That's not the way to handle it, when we forget history we are destined to repeat the mistakes made. That's what they say, anyway. Let's not repeat this one.