Their hopes rest with the smartbook - an always-on, always-connected device that's an extension of a smartphone rather than a shrunken-down notebook. Smartbooks and netbooks share a fairly similar form factor, though.
The nascent smartbook segment got a shot-in-the-arm at CES 2010 this week as industry goliaths Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard demonstrated Qualcomm Snapdragon-equipped machines running Google's Android operating system.
We got a chance to look at HP's model in the company's meeting rooms. Even though it looks like a netbook on first glance, the prototype device features a low-power ARM-based chip as opposed to Intel's x86-based Atom.
The frugal power-draw enables the smartbook to run for at least 12 hours from a slimline battery. Where the device really scores is with the smartphone-esque always-on functionality, where the smartbook becomes instantly responsive once the lid is (re)opened. Qualcomm also bundles in a modem with 3G, WiFi, and GPS, ensuring that it's an Internet-centric device.
Built from the ground up to be a smartbook rather than a derivation of a Windows-powered netbook, regular 'function' keys are eschewed in favour of dedicated buttons for menus, browsing and search.
As with other Android devices, the prototype HP has a multi-touch-screen that's reasonably responsive when dragging items on the desktop.
We envisage that smartbooks will gain some traction in 2010, especially if they're available at netbook-beating prices. There's intrinsic merit in the platform, we think, so it will be interesting to see which company can offer a genuinely compelling device this year, and whether it will be based on Tegra or Snapdragon.