Nokia keeps its netbook options open

Caroline Gabriel, Rethink Wireless
01 Jul 2009

This may be the year of the smartphone, but vendors from the PC and mobile industries are looking towards the next big growth generator - whatever that may be.

Mini-tablet, smartbook, MID - the form factor and even the name may still be up for grabs, but vendors are putting serious effort into defining the new category, with initiatives like Nokia's Intel partnership around Atom/Moblin/Maemo, and Qualcomm's smartbook drive.

But Nokia, for one, is keeping its options open. The Intel alliance may have been a slap in the face to Android's ambitions in the hybrid territory, but a week later, the Finnish giant is rumored to be preparing an ARM/Android device for launch next year.

This is no surprise - the Intel deal is clearly geared to more futuristic devices, which will likely come to market in 2011 or later, and Nokia has been widely expected to tap into the netbook boom before that, if only as an opportunistic move on the road towards more strategic new-format products.

It has already been reported to be making deals with Taiwanese ODMs. Taiwan business daily, the Commercial Times, reports that Nokia has ordered netbooks from two key players, Quanta Computer and Compal Electronics, which would suggest a launch in the fourth quarter or early 2010.

The main speculation centers on which chip Nokia will use - Atom, which dominates the current netbook market, or Snapdragon, the ARM-based processor from another new Nokia friend, Qualcomm.

Much will depend on whether Nokia aims to play in the classic netbook market, which is dominated by Atom, but where it will be hard to innovate or enhance margins; or to put its weight behind the emerging category of lower power, lower footprint “smartbooks”, which would suggest Snapdragon (Qualcomm, so far at least, boasts lower power consumption than Atom and is working closely with Taiwan to create its new device category).

Commercial Times believes Nokia is keeping its options open, ordering a Snapdragon product from Compal and an Atom device from Quanta.

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