DigiTimes is reporting Google plans to launch a smartbook running its Chrome operating system later this month. This information comes from the site's sources deep within the bowels of the component industry, and they're usually on the money. The Google smartbook is said to feature an ARM-based CPU, and it won't be the only one to hit the market. Acer and HP are expected to have Chrome-powered smartbooks of their own in December, and Asus is reportedly evaluating the market.
Interestingly, DigiTimes suggests this new breed of smartbooks will succeed where others have failed because the iPad has changed consumers' impression of non-Windows devices. I'm not so sure an overgrown iPod Touch should be credited with altering user perceptions of alternative operating systems, though. OS X had proven itself as a viable alternative to Windows long before the iPad emerged. The rising popularity of Android smartphones and the hype surrounding upcoming tablets could have consumers more interested in Google's OS offerings, though.
The DigiTimes piece doesn't mention how much the Google smartbook might cost, but it'll have to be incredibly cheap to stand a chance against netbooks, whose prices have been pushed downward by budget ultraportable notebooks. One of the main attractions of a netbook is the ability to run standard Windows software—a capability Chrome-based smartbooks won't be able to match. However, I am intrigued by the potential for smartbook/tablet hybrids. Some notebook makers are already offering convertible designs running Windows, and ARM-based hardware should consume considerably less power, facilitating slimmer devices with longer battery life.