Enter the Smartbook via the Skylight

Having still not yet entirely conquered my desire for a netbook—mostly staved off by the fact that my iPod Touch gets the job done most of the time—there may yet be good news. It is quite likely that I have simply waited long enough for netbooks to be, well, so last decade.

Enter the smartbook.

BoingBoing Gadgets writer Bob Beschizza points out, the very name itself may be up to debate. Regardless, smartbooks are just, well, smaller netbooks that function more like smartphones. And come this April, Lenovo is planning to make the Skylight, the first of its kind, available to the public.

What the heck is the Skylight, and why should we care? The Skylight, according to the official Lenovo press release, is “the first ARM-based processor smartbook device based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon™ chipset platform.” While it’s not the first netbook or device using this platform, which boasts longer batter life and lower power consumption along with higher performance, it is the first sub-netbook to do so. (Other gadgets using Snapdragon include the Nexus One, the Android-based Acer Liquid A1 Smartphone, and the Toshiba TG01.) Worthy of note, as well, is the fact that Snapdragon can also decode HD video, up to 720p—pretty impressive for a tiny portable computer, and a particularly nice feature for traveling geeks.

Skylight has some surprisingly decent specs for a very reasonable $500 retail, including:

  • 3G and WiFi capabilities (and the purported ability to go “seamlessly” between)
  • A web-optimized interface (in other words, Facebook on your desktop, etc.)
  • Up to 10 hours of battery life
  • 10″ display
  • Large keyboard (of particular importance for those of us who, you know, type. A serious flaw with many netbook designs.)
  • Qualcomm 1Ghz chipset with 20GB of standard flash and 2GB cloud storage

And what about an actual operating system? As Bechizza explains:

The Skylight doesn’t come with Windows, OSX or even (it seems) a fully-featured linux distro, which creates breathing room for its hardware–think smartphone operating systems–even as it creates a new hurdle for buyers in the lack of available software.

Of course, there are unanswered questions. It’s clear that AT&T is involved, but to what extent? If the $500 price-tag is with an AT&T contract, well, that would pretty much negate the whole deal. It would seem like an unfathomably bad move. No, the Skylight is no iPhone. But I think there are enough ornery folks out there (like myself) who have no desire whatsoever to sign up for a two-year phone contract with AT&T, even if it does come with a snappy smartbook.

So, netbook and laptop fans out there? What do you think about the smartbook? Hype or hip?

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