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Gallery: Is this the next generation of mini laptops?

Chipmaker Qualcomm has been showing off a prototype touchscreen laptop-to-tablet powered by its 3G Snapdragon chipset, which it claims will enable a new generation of always-on, low-power mobile computing devices ready to rock the mobile data world.
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Topic: Mobility
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Chipmaker Qualcomm has been showing off a prototype touchscreen laptop-to-tablet powered by its 3G Snapdragon chipset, which it claims will enable a new generation of always-on, low-power mobile computing devices ready to rock the mobile data world.

Silicon.com takes a closer look.

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas

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Qualcomm demonstrated the low power aspect of the chipset at a press event in London today by asking journalists to touch it "and see it's not burning". (It was indeed only warm and non-blister-inducing.)

A company spokesman joked: "We lost a lot of engineers [developing the chipset] but we have a good product now."

Snapdragon will enable mini laptop style devices - with screens of between nine and 12 inches - to run for between four to six hours without needing to be charged, according to a spokesman. Smartphones using Snapdragon will be able to run for longer.

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas

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The prototype mini-laptop had a swivelling screen enabling it to transform...

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas

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... into a slimline tablet.

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas

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The screen can also fold back the traditional way.

Unlike Intel's Atom chip - which has been used to power mini laptops including Asus Eee PCs - the Snapdragon chipset incorporates 3G, graphics capabilities and CPU in one. As a result, the device has always-on connectivity, does not need to sync to get email and does not need booting prior to use.

The Snapdragon processor has been completely redesigned, according to a spokesman, and is based on an ARM architecture.

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas

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The GUI on the prototype included a VoIP icon, along with GPS, email, browser, media player and office productivity apps.

Qualcomm said the first device to use Snapdragon will hit the market next year - adding it will be the first of a family of products coming in 2009. Twelve companies are developing various products, a spokesman added.

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas

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Qualcomm was also showing off this prototype smartphone which uses Snapdragon.

Discussing its roadmap for LTE - aka long term evolution, the likely successor to 3G cellular networks - Enrico Salvatori, SVP of Qualcomm Europe, said it is "in the middle of the first development of LTE hardware and software", with the first device expected next year.

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas

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Showing a diagram of network coverage varying in urban hubs and suburban and rural areas (pictured), a spokesman said: "LTE complements existing 3G networks. Our solution is multimode - not a 4G only or 3G only chipset." Devices will automatically switch from one coverage area to another, he added.

Asked why Qualcomm is now concentrating its efforts on LTE - rather than rival long range connectivity tech WiMax - Salvatori said: "We do not believe WiMax is going to deliver performance you cannot achieve on LTE," adding it "will be difficult to compete with the ecosystem of the 3GPP world".

However he added Qualcomm is not closing the book on WiMax - and will be "open to whatever the market will ask".

Photo credit: Natasha Lomas

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