Lenovo Skylight Smartbook, Multitouch Netbooks Arrive for CES

Lenovo announced the Skylight, the first ARM-based "smartbook" with the Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset platform, ahead of this week's start of the 2010 Consumer Electronic Show. In addition, the company also rolled out new netbooks that incorporate multitouch into their features. Although netbooks have remained a strong seller despite the recessionary environment, the breadth of Lenovo's new laptops suggests the company is hoping that consumers and businesses will gravitate towards a variety of models in 2010.

If a smartphone and a netbook somehow managed to get together and produce offspring, the result could very well resemble the new Lenovo Skylight, the first ARM-based "smartbook" to feature the Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset platform. The clamshell-shaped device will rely on AT&T's 3G mobile broadband service for connectivity, in addition to built-in WiFi.

Lenovo designed the Skylight to be an ultra-lightweight device, at less than two pounds, and incorporated both a full keyboard and 10.1-inch screen into its form-factor. It relies on a Qualcomm 1GHz Snapdragon chipset platform for processing power, and includes 20GB of standard flash memory and 2GB of cloud-based storage; battery life is optimally rated at 10 hours.

Upon its April release in the U.S., the Skylight will retail starting at $499.

Netbooks might have been a bestseller for PC manufacturers during an otherwise moribund 2009, but the ultra-cheap devices also offered lower sales margins. In order to solve that particular conundrum, some of manufacturers' newest netbook-style devices offer the same sort of ultra-portability, but at a higher price-point and often with a more powerful processor.

Lenovo seems to assume that the Skylight's cost is justified through the device's offering of a Web-optimized user interface and sleek design. Whether consumers flock to the Skylight at that price point could serve as a barometer of sorts for the success of the still-nascent smartbook market, which seeks to occupy that niche between netbooks and smartphones. Other companies, including Sharp Electronics and Pegatron, have also announced smartbooks.

As part of its presence at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week, Lenovo has been rolling out a number of new netbooks. Among them is the ThinkPad X100e, equipped with an 11.6-inch high-definition display and powered by the owner's choice of either AMD Athlon Neo single- or dual-core processors, or else a Turion dual-core processor. The ThinkPad X100e's price of under $500, inexpensive by traditional laptop standards, is nonetheless a substantial markup from many of the cheaper netbooks.

The company's other new netbooks include the IdeaPad S10-3t, which it bills as "the industry's first convertible netbook tablet to feature a capacitive multitouch screen," and the IdeaPad S10-3, a refresh of the S10-2 also with multitouch. Both these devices include a 10.1-inch screen and the option for an Intel Atom N470 processor.

In addition to the ThinkPad 100Xe and the new IdeaPad netbooks, Lenovo's wares for CES include the AMD-processor-powered ThinkPad Edge, which feature a redesigned keyboard and somewhat flashier look than Lenovo's traditionally business-oriented machines, and a four-model expansion to the company's classic ThinkPad line.

Lenovo is evidently hoping, as are other PC manufacturers, that these new laptops and PCs will entice consumers and businesses into more of a buying mood than this time last year, when a recessionary economy sent overall PC sales (with the notable exception of netbooks) into a tailspin.