Toshiba’s [TYO:6502] Ac10 Android running netbook garnered quite a lot of attention when it was first released in Japan earlier this year. It became probably the first netbook ever to become available for purchase with the Google [NASDAQ:GOOG] mobile OS Android running on it. However, anyone who wanted to pick one up had no other option than to buy it from Japan. But it seems like that is about to change as Toshiba UK plans to launch it in the UK.
The hint that Toshiba UK might start selling the AC100 in the country comes from the fact that the company has put up a page for the product on the official website. The minisite is complete with detailed specs of the netbook/smartbook and gallery images.
Some prefer calling it a smartbook because it is essentially a mini-laptop that is powered by the mobile SoC from NVIDIA [NASDAQ:NVDA] called Tegra. The AC100 is using the Tegra 2 chipset. This chipset is already quite battery efficient and powerful. So put into a mini-laptop form factor with a mobile OS, it can become the perfect companion device to carry around. Something that is faster than a netbook’s typical full fledged OS and not as expensive or as limited (in some cases) as a tablet.
It has a 10.1inch screen with a native resolution of 1024×600 pixels, so it is not very different from your average netbook. But one good news is that it running the latest version of the mobile OS — Android 2.1. As for the battery life, Toshiba says that you can get 8 hours of life out of it with about 180 hours of stand by. Storage on the Ac100 is in the form of a 128GB SSD and memory is a 512MB of DDR2 — which probably the maximum memory for any Android device right now.
The only worry right now is that this OS was built for touchscreen devices. So this probably not the right form factor for it.
Just as Mobinnova had promised use even before they released the Beam, the netbook is now running Android instead of Windows CE. Good riddance I say — that OS is getting really old really fast when compared to the latest crop. Beam has made the switch over Android and it seems like Laptop Mag got some time alone with it. How nice!
As is evident from the image above, things haven’t changed much in the Android world. You still have that little tab that gives you access to all you need. The status bar is also there on top and the home screen seems to be acting like a nice little desktop substitute. The only thing that has visibly changed is the size of the display on which Android is running. We are way too used to seeing Android run on mobile phones. So when we see a large 8.9inch device running Android, the sheer number of icons fitting onto one screen is slightly unsettling.
More than unsettling, it is somewhat too busy for the eyes. They really should’ve tried to create a custom UI or at least create a few tweaks with a skin. Nevertheless, at least they have saved porting time by not doing those things.
The new Android model also features some other enhancements, other than the Android that is. There seem to be new media buttons on the keyboard and the CinemaNow software comes pre-installed so that you start downloading movies at once. As is to be expected — you cannot access the Android market from the Beam. It’s just too different at the hardware level for that.
Since this is based on NVIDIA’s Tegra, it will have some games to show off its graphics capabilities. And the company is working on its own app store, much like everyone else in the market.
Speculation throughout the Internet suggest that Asus is going to make an extremely cheap portable that will run Android and will cost less that $200. This sounds like the mythical $100 laptop, which has not been achieved with any reasonable success as of yet.
These speculations broke out after Asus’ CEO was interviewed by a Korean news site. In the interview, he seems to be talking about a new device that the company will be releasing in the year 2010. Jerry Shen (CEO, Asustek) said that his company is in the process of making a smartbook and tey will be launching it in the first quarter of 2010.
Smartbooks are different from netbooks. They are usually less powerful than netbooks and are also smaller. Smartbooks are made generally for the lowest rung of computing needs and are popular as devices that are given to younger students. They are usually made to be durable and cheap so that they can be made, purchased and distributed in bulk.
However, smartbooks do not have a clearly defined line that separates them from the netbooks. With technology evolving so fast, both segments seem to be overlapping at quite a few points. Hence, Asus’ target to make this smartbook needs more details before any estimated can be made about its performance and reception.
But there are already talks about what OS the netbook is going to use. Smartbooks are usually sold with an embedded OS because of the lack of resources. These are usually system-on-a-chip solutions that require very little resources. But since the price point was given at something around $184 (converted from Korean Won), it is unlikely to run Windows. And since the Android OS is already open source and so very sophisticated, that is likely to be a good choice. Other embedded OS’ are not nearly as advanced as the Android. Also, they are not as well maintained and supported by third-party developers.