Foxconn developing inexpensive, Arm-based smartbooks

Foxconn Technology plans to launch its first smartbooks next year, which are mini-laptops that use microprocessors from Arm Holdings normally found in smartphones.

Smartbooks are similar to netbooks except that they don't use Intel's popular Atom microprocessor nor other x86 processors.

Foxconn has been asked by telecommunications companies in China and elsewhere to develop smartbooks due to their low prices, said Young Liu, special assistant to the CEO at Foxconn, on the sidelines of an Intel press conference in Taipei.

They're attracted to the price range of a smartbook, US$100 to $200, he said. "That's a lot lower than a netbook," he said. "There will be a lot of demand for a sub-$200 device."

His company is working on "less than five" smartbooks right now, he said, declining to name a specific number. The devices, codenamed Qbooks, use a few different Linux operating systems, including one similar to the Intel-backed Moblin OS and one developed by Foxconn. The company is currently looking into Google's Android mobile OS for possible use as well, he said.

The smartbooks his company is developing will have screens between 7 and 10 inches, the same size as standard netbook screens.

He said Foxconn's first smartbook will likely be available next year, but added that if Intel puts out a microprocessor that can compete with Arm's chip on price, his company may use that instead and make netbooks.

Foxconn is the trade name for Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry, the world's largest contract electronics manufacturer. The company owns several subsidiaries and affiliates operating under various Foxconn names, including Foxconn Electronics and Foxconn International, under the group umbrella, Foxconn Technology Group.

Smartbooks from several Taiwanese contract manufacturers were displayed at Computex Taipei in June, including Pegatron, the contract arm of Asustek Computer; Wistron, formerly Acer's contract manufacturing operation; and Elitegroup Computer Systems.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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