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ARM threatens Intel's reign on sub-notebooks

Posted: 01 Oct 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ARM processor? sub-notebook market? netbook?

Since Qualcomm officially coined the term "smartbook" in late May 2009 to differentiate between Intel's Atom-based netbook and ARM's ARM-based subnotebook (now the smartbook), the IT industry is moving in high gear to supplant Atom's dominance in the lucrative netbook/subnotebook market.

Already, Lenovo, Nokia, Foxconn, Sony Ericsson and Sharp are planning smartbooks. ARM runs under the Linux OS. Linux is free, whereas Microsoft charges a licensing fee up to $35 on each netbook. To further keep cost down near the intended $100 price point, enter cloud computing. Google's Linux-based Chrome OS offers an improved suite of productivity applications, which will influence netbook purchasers toward the ARM system. There is a wide array of open-source software that all Linux distributions share. It is reshaping the software industry by reducing the overall cost structure and represents the future of enterprise software. As cloud computing becomes more sophisticated, we will see an Internet protocol-based convergence of audio, video, productivity applications, and IT data run on smartbooks.

It was also forecast that subsidized sub-notebooks would start appearing. "Along with the growing competition among software service providers, we will see a new infrastructure taking hold, modeled after Hewlett-Packard (cheap printer, expensive ink) and the mobile service providers (cheap cellphone, expensive monthly wireless charge). This subsidized bundle model will grow the ARM smartbook to greater market shares." AT&T seemed to think it was a good idea. The wireless provider started offering subsidized smartbooks for as little as $49.99 in two U.S. citiesAtlanta and Philadelphia.

In addition, sub-notebooks are showing 3G connectivity rates ten times that of notebooks. Kindle 2 from Amazon is basically a mobile phone platform. The processor is a Freescale Semiconductor i.MX31 with an ARM11 core, and the 3G communication module uses a chipset from Qualcomm. Sales of subnotebooks bundled with 3G services in the Taiwan market reached 15,000 units in August, accounting for 50 percent of total retail sales. Smartbooks, because of their design and need for cloud connectivity, will grow even stronger.

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