ONE OF THE rumors floating around Computex involves a pretty little Asus ‘Smartbook’ based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and it’s mid-show disappearance. The story, as we are told, is that one day it was there, the next it was not, and almost no one would say why.
The smartbook itself is a cute little number, one of the nicer ones at the show. You can get a good idea about the device from the Tweaktown writeup here.
It is based on a 1GHz Snapdragon (ARM based) CPU, runs Android, and is quite a cute little beastie. On top of that it is light, probably doesn’t have or need air vents and fans, and should be an adequate little surfing pad.
Toss in that it doesn’t have the Windows tax in either sense, and you have a very inexpensive machine. If you don’t run Windows, you save the $15-200 price up front, quite big deal on a $199ish machine. The other tax is that Windows is a proverbial DRM infested pig, it needs more CPU, memory and storage just to boot to a desktop. This means that the bill of materials (BoM) is far higher if you saddle a computer with The Broken OS.
A cheap, light, and functional machine is what everyone wants, and it is exactly what MS can’t deliver. OK, we all know about Midori and the ARM port to devices, but that is a year or nine off, so what is a company like MS to do? They don’t have anything people want, so they have to force things onto an unwilling market.
That brings us back to the Asus and what was billed as the best netbook/smartbook of the show. You have a company that kicked off the netbook craze two years ago with the Eee, an OS that is not only MS free, but Linux based as well, and a chipmaker that actually delivers product. The buzz was growing at Computex, and that would create a PR disaster for MS.
So it went away. No really, it went *POOF* in the middle of the show. No explanation, no excuses, just that it was there one day, and gone the next. PR disaster averted for Redmond, phew.
So what do you do if you are a fading convicted monopolist with a toolbox full of hammers but no product? The story as we heard it is that the ‘nice’ folk at MS called the nice folk at Asus, sans quotes around the second nice, and ‘nicely’ suggested that they really didn’t want to show one of the best devices of Computex at Computex. Asus meekly complied, and the device went poof.
We haven’t been able to directly confirm this with Asus or Qualcomm, but given the number of people who told us the same story and what their positions are, we have no doubt that it did happen. When MS sees competition, they step on it. Luckily, Redmond is more than wealthy enough to buy their way around laws, so there will likely be no repercussions from this.
The question at this point is not whether or not the MS phone call happened, we firmly believe that it did, but where things go from here. Will MS buy off or threaten Asus into killing the device for good? If you don’t see this or very similar products on the market soon, at least you know what happened.S|A