Smart opportunity

One of the products unveiled by Nokia yesterday at its annual event for sales partners and the media was the ‘Booklet 3G’, a device that fits into the netbook category of computing devices.

Tags: LaptopsNokia CorporationQUALCOMM IncorporatedSmartbookUnited Arab Emirates
  • E-Mail
By  George Bevir Published  September 3, 2009

One of the products unveiled by Nokia yesterday at its annual event for sales partners and the media was the ‘Booklet 3G’, a device that fits into the netbook category of computing devices.

These slimmed down laptops are designed primarily for accessing the web, but with a 12-hour battery and HSPA connectivity as well as WiFi, the Booklet addresses two of most netbook’s failings: connectivity and battery life.

The confirmation of Nokia’s netbook comes as a new range of devices are being touted as the next big (or should that be small?) thing in personal computing by some of the firms that produce the chips around which the little laptops are built.

Freescale's Consumer Electronics marketing manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Franck Nicholls, says that in terms of size, ‘smartbooks’ sit, rather unsurprisingly, somewhere between netbooks and smartphones.

“A smartbook must be truly portable, without any sacrifice on performance,” Nicholls says. “Mobile phones are portable but the performance is not there. Netbooks are powerful but they are not portable due to limited battery life and heavy design.”

Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, another of the manufacturers of the chips that power the devices, describes them as, “smartphones, but with a 10-inch screen and a full-size keyboard that will be on the net all the time. So you will have your e-mail, contact and calendar synchronised all the time. You will not have to wait to get on the internet.” Importantly, they will run all day on a single charge.

All of this should be good news to mobile operators. With declining revenue from voice calls many mobile operators have embraced new technology in order to drive use of their networks, with USB plug-in devices in particular helping to increase broadband usage and revenue through the sale of additional Sim cards. Embedding the Sim card is a logical step, and putting it in a device that will encourage users to spend longer on the net than they would with a smartphone makes sense.

But Freescale’s Franck Nicholls acknowledges that the success of smartbooks, which are expected to ship later this year, depends largely on affordable data plans, and from a manufacturer’s perspective all-you-can-eat schemes are the ideal tariffs to attach the devices to.

Such tariffs can be tricky for operators who need to balance the capital spending of building the network with the operational costs of running it. Eradicating the complications of metered billing will surely help to encourage more users, but without some form of incremental billing margin could suffer.

Smartbooks could be a useful tool to drive broadband penetration in countries where the cost of PC ownership has been highlighted as a major obstacle to increasing usage. Nokia’s device, which is due to ship in the fourth quarter of 2009, does not appear to be the answer to the conundrum of low cost computing. The Finnish manufacturer plans to sell the Booklet 3G for €575 (US$820), which is a hefty price tag when compared to similar devices from the likes of established laptop manufacturers Asus and Dell, which sell for around €350 ($500) or less.

As with many of its high-end mobile phones, Nokia will expect mobile operators to absorb some of the cost of the Booklet 3G for customers who sign up to a postpaid tariff. But with operators already under pressure to provide unlimited data tariffs, surely it will be too much of a struggle to convince networks in the Middle East to subsidise the devices as well.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code