HP Launches Android-Based Smartbook

HP has launched a smartbook based on Google’s Android operating system, which it hopes will provide a legitimate alternative to netbooks and rival Apple’s iPad

Computer giant Hewlett-Packard has launched its first smartbook based on Google’s Android operating system, which it hopes will rival Apple’s iPad tablet.

Half way between a smartphone and a netbook, HP’s device – dubbed Compaq AirLife 100 – runs the full multitasking Android operating system, with a 10.1-inch touchscreen interface. It also has a 92 percent size keyboard and 12 hours of battery life, but only 16GB of internal solid state storage.

Just as Apple spurned Intel’s Atom processors – used in most netbooks – in favor of ARM chips for its iPad device, HP has opted for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon ARM processor, to offer a combination of mobile processing performance and rich multimedia.

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“The browser has become the desktop for many people, and the new Compaq AirLife is the next evolution of a mobile computer that is streamlined specifically for the web,” said Charl Snyman, vice president and general nanager of HP Personal Systems Group in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). “This new type of user lives life online and no longer measures computing speeds and feeds, but rather friends, people and online social ranks.”

Airlife’s other features include integrated 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, a webcam and GPS. It will be sold exclusively thorough Telefonica from Spring 2010 in select countries. HP did not provide pricing information.

While much of the industry’s attention is focussed on tablets, following the launch of Apple’s iPad, HP’s AirLife smartbook is likely to attract some interest as a netbook alternative, particularly as it is running the Android OS.

In January Google finally unveiled its Nexus One smartphone, billed by some commentators as an iPhone-killer. During the event, Google Android senior product manager Erick Tseng said the Nexus One was the first of an emerging class of devices it calls “superphones”, partially because of its unusual speed, running the 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.

“It’s just really fast, especially if you’ve got multiple apps running simultaneously. You’ve got your music running in the background, you’re syncing your email, you’re broadcasting your location to your friends using Google Latitude and meanwhile you’re browsing the web,” he said. “If you’ve got all of those applications running in parallel on some other smartphones, you might start seeing some slowdown. With the Nexus One, you see a lot less of that, and that’s because of that really fast processor under the hood.”

BroadPoint AmTech analyst Benjamin Schachter predicted at the time that Google was likely to follow up the Nexus One launch with a slew of mobile devices. “We think that Google’s unstated goal is to potentially build its mobile hardware business into a meaningful revenue driver,” he wrote in an research note.

“Mobile is a big enough market to move the needle for Google, and we believe success here may encourage the company to introduce more hardware such as netbooks, tablets, and other devices. In our view, yesterday was quite literally day one for Google’s long-term mobile ambitions.”

Meanwhile rumours have been circulating of a tablet based on Google’s Chrome OS, suggesting such a device would be made by Taiwanese company HTC, which also makes the Nexus One. According to discussion on the Chromium site, potential Chrome tablets would have a variety of screen sizes, some as small as 5 inches, and would support multi-touch.

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