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Smartbooks vs. Smart Tablets: The Battle of 2010

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Apple MacBook Air

Apple MacBook Air

Smartbooks are MacBook Air-thin notebook-like devices that have great battery life, but, compared to a real notebook, limited application support. They are being envisioned as a blend of notebook and smartphone technologies to provide a device that isn’t as revolutionary as the Smart-Tablet, but much better for text activities – even long text activities like writing papers or extended emails. Clearly more business than entertainment focused, at least at first, they also anticipate a wireless world, are expected to provide a great Web experience, and should be relatively inexpensive, particularly if purchased with a cellular data service.

This gizmo would seem to be more in line with what Steve Jobs has traditionally said is needed in a larger format device, but Apple apparently isn’t building one for fear of cannibalizing their more expensive notebook sales. These are likely going to be much more attractive for folks who want smaller phones and bigger Internet devices and have gotten very tired of the compromises that a smartphone brings with it. There are a lot of folks who seem to miss having a tiny phone and are having trouble reading the small screens on smartphones. We call them Baby Boomers and I too am part of this category.

These are also much more similar to notebook computers which have proven, historically (yes Jobs was right) to be vastly more successful than their tablet computer counterparts in the traditional PC space. There will be several that will come to market next year with decent graphics and strong marketing launch budgets but it is doubtful anyone will do as well as Apple traditionally does.

Wrapping Up: Who Wins?

Maybe it would make better sense to ask which makes more sense to you, because I have a feeling, much like those that prefer the RIM Blackberry or the iPhone, that this choice will be highly personal. Still I think it likely that folks who like the Smartbook form factor may, to a higher degree, just stay with small notebooks and those that really want something different will gravitate to the Smart-Tablet. I also expect Apple to successfully push folks in that direction because they seem to be really good at doing this.

In the end the only sure thing is that it will be really cool to have small Web-enabled products that provide a much more seamless view of the web and multimedia content then devices of this class currently do. (I do wonder about Apple’s Flash problems in this regard). In the end, the only real winner will be us, the end consumers, because we will get a new class of devices some of which are likely to be really cool.

As for yours truly, I’m going to wait for devices to arrive that have the new hybrid ePaper/LCD display, but it will be fun to watch this new market evolve. Just out of curiosity, which device type are you looking forward to: A Smart-Tablet like Apple’s, or a Smartbook that has a keyboard? Drop me a note and let me know.

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