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Photos: The Android smartbook fired up by Qualcomm's Snapdragon

But are Minority Report-style smart tablets the future of mobile computing?
By Natasha Lomas, Contributor on
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1 of 4 Natasha Lomas/ZDNET

But are Minority Report-style smart tablets the future of mobile computing?

This week saw chipmaker Qualcomm taking the wraps off a range of hardware powered by its Snapdragon platform.

Among the devices on show was this Quanta smartbook prototype (pictured above and below) which runs the Google Android OS.

The smartbook - a laptop-cum-smartphone - is powered by Qualcomm's 1Ghz Snapdragon chipset. The chipmaker said an Lenovo smartbook running Android will launch on US mobile operator AT&T's network at the start of next year.

While the smartbook may resemble a common-or-garden netbook, it sports a battery life of more than eight hours and always-on connectivity - via 3G, wi-fi and other radios - in the manner of a smartphone.

Andrew Gilbert, Qualcomm's executive VP, told silicon.com: "This notion of being able to combine the form factor of a netbook with the flexibility of experience of a smartphone seems to resonate with people. People are bored of the five to seven minute start-up time of a notebook."

Different hardware form factors were also on show - including a prototype that has a separate screen and keyboard (pictured below, to the right of the Quanta device).

Are smartbooks a business or consumer proposition? Both, according to Gilbert: "If you start to think about cloud computing, you marry that with an app store in a large form factor you've actually got a great utility device, as well as a great consumer device," he said.

Android smartbook

A prototype smartbook running a vanilla version of the Android OS

Photo credits: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

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2 of 4 Natasha Lomas/ZDNET

The form factor of smartbooks such as the one pictured above, will likely be superseded - according to Gilbert, smartbooks are set to evolve into a more slate or tablet-style.

With a tablet form factor, Gilbert said there is more scope to create a tactile, Minority Report-style user interface, involving multiple windows being manipulated on a multi-touch screen, incorporating the likes of augmented reality.

Android smartbook

Another Snapdragon device with a tablet form factor was also on show - made by Mangrove and running Microsoft's Windows OS

Photo credits: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

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3 of 4 Natasha Lomas/ZDNET

According to Qualcomm, more than 15 manufacturers are developing more than 40 products based on the Snapdragon chipset.

Snapdragon chips are already powering a range of smartphones - including the HTC HD2, pictured above.

Other smartphones packing Snapdragon were on show too, pictured below, from left to right: the Android-powered Acer Liquid A1; the Windows Mobile Toshiba TG01; and the Acer F1 Windows Mobile device.

Qualcomm's Gilbert said the ability to integrate different OSes is becoming increasingly important to chipmakers. "The operating system market is uncertain," he said. "All that's certain is there's going to be a bunch of different guys vying for claiming the market space."

Snapdragon smartphones

A range of Snapdragon-powered smartphones

Photo credits: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

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4 of 4 Natasha Lomas/ZDNET

Qualcomm was also demoing a wireless power tray (pictured above) that's capable of charging multiple devices at once.

Devices do not have to be in contact with the tray to be charged - as the picture above shows - and a Qualcomm spokeswoman said the wireless charging tech could be embedded in surfaces such as tabletops or even a laptop lid.

The chipmaker was also showing off its Mirasol low-power consumption display technology (pictured below) which it claims is able to extend the battery life of a handset by up to 40 per cent.

The display tech produces colour without backlighting, which not only reduces battery-drain but means screens can be better viewed in direct sunlight. Qualcomm said the tech works by reflecting light in a similar fashion to the phenomenon that makes a butterfly's wings shimmer.

Qualcomm Mirasol

Qualcomm's Mirasol low-power display technology

Photo credits: Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

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