Lenovo Launches Skylight Smartbook

Based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipset, the device boasts quick Web access.
Lenovo Skylight Smartbook
(click image for larger view)
Lenovo Skylight Smartbook

Lenovo on Tuesday introduced the Skylight smartbook, a netbook-like gadget that weighs less than two pounds and has a custom interface for quick access to the Internet.

Lenovo plans to showcase its latest gadget at the International Consumer Electronics Show that starts Thursday in Las Vegas, Nev.

The Skylight, which is scheduled to be available in April, is based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipset. The device includes a 1 GHz ARM CPU, a graphics processor and integrated GPS, high-definition video recording and playback, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth capabilities, and mobile broadband connectivity.

A smartbook is a Web-enabled device that is a hybrid smartphone and netbook. With Skylight, Lenovo is using a laptop-like form factor that the company claims is thinner than many smartphones.

The lightweight clamshell design comprises a 10-inch screen and a full-size keyboard. In addition, the system offers more than 10 hours of battery life, thanks in part to Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon platform, which uses 30% less power than the company's previous generation of chips.

Besides the look, Skylight resembles netbooks in price. Lenovo said pricing will start at $499, which is in the range of higher-end netbooks. The device connects to AT&T's 3G mobile broadband service in the U.S.

Choosing AT&T as the carrier partner could prove risky. The wireless provider is the exclusive 3G provider for Apple's iPhone, and users of the smartphone have complained of unsatisfactory service in accessing the Internet, particularly in high-usage areas, such as San Francisco and New York. AT&T has acknowledged having problems in those areas.

To differentiate Skylight from netbooks, Lenovo is highlighting the new device's quick Web access. The device has a custom interface that uses mini-applications, called gadgets, to connect to Web services and social networks.

Lenovo plans to ship Skylight with 18 preloaded gadgets. Services available through the mini-apps include Google Gmail, Facebook, YouTube, Amazon's MP3 store for buying digital music and Roxio CinemaNow for purchasing digital movies. Skylight will have 20 GB of flash storage and 2 GB of online storage, Lenovo said.

AT&T, which will carry the Skylight in its retail stores, is likely to offer the device at a subsidized price in return for a two-year contract to its data service. Nevertheless, in selling the device for nearly $500, Lenovo is taking a different approach to smartbooks than other vendors.

For example, Freescale Semiconductor on Monday introduced a reference design for a smartbook that resembles a tablet PC and would have a starting price of about $200 to make the Web device an attractive alternative to netbooks. The mini-laptops were the hottest selling category in the PC market last year.

Freescale is scheduled to show off a prototype of its design at CES. The company plans to make its reference design available to hardware manufacturers for evaluation beginning in February.

For Further Reading:

CES Tech Goes Tablet

Freescale Intros Tablet PC Prototype

Smartbooks Seen As Entering Market 'Wasteland'

Editor's Choice
Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer