Smartbooks delayed, Flash partly to blame

Don’t expect to see the low-powered laptops known as smartbooks on the market any time soon, as ARM says delays in Flash and other issues have gummed up the works.

Smartbooks were envisioned as a cross between mobile phones and netbooks. They’re weaker, and based on ARM architecture found in mobile phones rather than the x86 architecture of desktop and laptop computers. With the drawback in power comes longer battery life, slimmer designs and instant-on computing.

But Adobe’s slow movement on bringing Flash to mobile devices has put a damper on manufacturers’ smartbook plans, ZDNet reports. Unlike smartphones, which aren’t yet expected to do everything a full-sized computer can, smartbooks need to access the full Web, so Flash is essential.

Smartbooks delayed, Flash partly to blame

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Last summer, Adobe said Flash 10 support would be available to developers in beta for all major mobile device platforms in October. The company has since delayed the release window, and now expects Android 2.1 phones to get a developer beta this month, with general availability in June. ARM’s marketing vice president Ian Drew didn’t say to ZDNet how long it would take for smartbooks to appear after that.

Flash isn’t the only issue plaguing smartbooks. The tablet craze, in full swing now that Apple has released the iPad and proven consumer interest, has “confused” manufacturers who are working on tablets instead, Drew said. Also, adoption of Linux in netbooks has been slow, perhaps illustrating that once people move up from smartphones and tablets, they want Windows.

Smartbooks now stand on shaky ground. They’re a cool concept — closer to the original idea behind netbooks by giving people quick Internet access in slim package — but the long-lasting, instant-on computing of tablets make the smartbook less compelling than it once was, and it’s not clear which operating system is ideal for these machines. The only reason you’d want a smartbook over a tablet is if you absolutely need a physical keyboard, and even that can be solved in tablets with optional accessories. Even if Adobe was faster with mobile Flash, smartbooks may have missed the boat anyway.

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