By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 9:40 am
Smartbooks are an emerging class of computing devices that, basically, are to netbooks what netbooks are to notebooks: smaller, cheaper, less powerful, and (possibly) handier. They’re an idea being promoted by chipmakers Qualcomm and Freescale, whose CPUs will be inside the machines (which won’t run Windows).
Trouble is, there’s already a smartbook. It’s a German company, and as TechCrunch’s Robin Wauters is reporting, it’s decided to protect its trademark by going after use of the term to describe these mini-netbooks.
The whole situation is reminiscent of Psion’s period of trying to stomp out use of “netbook” (which was soon resolved). This time, though, I’d shed no tears if the chip companies and others behind the new gadgets were forced to to find a new name for their platform. Unless you want to argue that smartbooks are, indeed, the smartest computing device to date, the term isn’t descriptive. Unlike “desktop” or “notebook” it’s just marketingspeak. Even “smartphone” is clearer, since smartphones are indeed smarter than mere phones.
The category is tough to describe in a clear way: Intel’s similar MID (Mobile Internet Device) concept isn’t very helpful or alluring. But here are few stabs at new terminology, just in case we need it:
Any other candidates?
The real question about smartbooks, of course, is whether the world needs ’em. I’m looking forward to seeing some examples in person in January at the Consumer Electronics Show. Historically, the track record of devices too big to fit in a pocket and too limited to serve as full-blown computers has been crummy. (Sorry, UMPCs.) But with the rise of smartphones and the decline of operating systems as the defining factor that determines what you can do with a computer, smartbooks aren’t an inherently nutty idea.