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In the past two decades, manufacturers have delivered us laptops, notebooks, mini-notebooks, subnotebooks and netbooks in successive attempts to achieve lightweight computing on the move. Smartbook may be the jazzy new term for 2010.

They are small portable computers that look like netbooks but have different processors, which means that they won’t be able to run Windows. Instead they will operate using one of the many varieties of Linux. They are being touted as giving better battery life than netbooks (though with 11 hours life currently being advertised for one type of netbook, perhaps that isn’t so important an issue). So far as their functions are concerned, they fit somewhere between netbooks and smartphones.

One obstacle to the term becoming a generic description is that Smartbook™ is a trademark of a German company, Smartbook AG, which is suing the US company Qualcomm, one of the promoters of the new term, in a German district court for infringement.

In a quest to promote a new type of mobile computing device called the smartbook, Qualcomm unveiled a new Lenovo gadget Thursday. The wireless technology company is betting that consumers will gravitate to smartbooks, which are designed to combine the most appealing features of smart phones and laptops.

Forbes, 12 Nov. 2009.

I’d shed no tears if the chip companies and others behind the new gadgets were forced to find a new name for their platform. Unless you want to argue that smartbooks are, indeed, the smartest computing device to date, the term isn’t descriptive. Unlike “desktop” or “notebook” it’s just marketing-speak.

PC World, 25 Nov. 2009.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 12 Dec. 2009

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 12 December 2009.