The smartbook concept is only a couple of years old but the number of devices is set to grow dramatically. ABI Research reckons there'll be 163 million smartbooks shipped worldwide in 2015.
Jeff Orr, the company's senior analyst, defines a smartbook as "a low-powered device running a mobile operating system that is always connected, either via WiFi or (more often) using cellular or mobile broadband. Smartbooks can take many different shapes. They are a subset of MIDs (mobile Internet devices) and netbooks, and address the same potential users, usage, pricing, and market needs. The difference is that they don’t use x86 processors."
He also warns retailers to avoid creating a separate market category for smartbooks. "Vendors should avoid creating a separate market category with a new name, instead accepting that they are competing in an established category. Consumers hear about netbooks as alternatives to laptops and MIDs as alternatives to mobile phones, and can understand that. We believe the best opportunity in this ultra-mobile device market lies in new form-factors."
Apple's first smartbook, the Apple iPad, is due to start shipping next month.