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ARM set to take sub-notebook market from Intel

Posted: 01 Oct 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ARM processor  sub-notebook market  netbook 

In May 2009, Qualcomm officially coined the term "smartbook" to differentiate ARM-based subnotebooks from the Intel Atom-based netbook. Now the industry is moving into high gear to supplant Atom's dominance in the lucrative sub-notebook 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 Rs.1,701.51 ($35) on each netbook. To further keep cost down near the intended Rs.4,861.46 ($100) price point, enter cloud computing. Google's Linux-based Chrome OS offers an improved suite of productivity applications, which will influence netbook purchasers towards 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 subsidised sub-notebooks would start appearing. "Along with the growing competition among software service providers, we will see a new infrastructure taking hold, modelled after Hewlett-Packard (cheap printer, expensive ink) and the mobile service providers (cheap cell phone, expensive monthly wireless charge). This subsidised 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 subsidised smartbooks for as little as Rs.2,430.24 ($49.99) in two U.S. cities—Atlanta 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 per cent of total retail sales. Smartbooks, because of their design and need for cloud connectivity, will grow even stronger.

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