Those companies that are in the smartbook market probably will be happy to hear that ABI Research expects 163 million of the devices will ship in 2015.
As ABI defines it, a smartbook isn’t a product category or a brand, but a subset of mobile Internet devices (MIDs) and netbooks. Smartbooks address the same potential users, usage, pricing and market needs, but the difference is they don’t use x86 processors.
Specifically, a smartbook is a low-powered device running a mobile operating system that is always connected, either via Wi-Fi or (more often) using cellular or mobile broadband, says ABI senior analyst Jeff Orr. The estimated 163 million smartbooks to ship worldwide in 2015 reflects a significant rate of growth given that the very first models only appeared in 2008.
Qualcomm and Freescale are two of the largest promoters of the smartbook concept. Other chipmakers such as TI and Nvidia that produce ARM-based processors are active in the market as well. The first waves of devices are coming from established vendors such as Lenovo and Sharp and newcomers such as Always Innovating. ABI also says that Apple’s iPad is technically a smartbook.
But the research firm points out that technical definitions don’t mean much to most consumers. “The idea of ‘a smartbook’ doesn’t resonate with anybody thinking of buying such a device,” Orr says in a press release. “Vendors should avoid creating a separate market category with a new name, instead accepting that they are competing in an established category. Consumers hear about netbooks as alternatives to laptops and MIDs as alternatives to mobile phones, and can understand that. We believe the best opportunity in this ultra-mobile device market lies in new form factors.”
ABI Research says it will be important for vendors to bring entry-level smartbook prices to $200 or less.