The basic pedigree of any smartbook falls between that of a smartphone and an ordinary notebook. Today that means about a 1.6GHz dual-core CPU, a gigabyte or so of RAM, and around 100GB of disk space. Other aspects focus on usability. Here are InfoWorld's 10 essential features that any future Google smartbook should encompass, in priority order. Want to see examples of each? Check out our slideshow "What it takes to build the ideal Android smartbook."
1. Multitouch screen
Smartphones such as the iPhone and Palm Pre rely on a multitouch screen interface for almost all of their operations. Although not fully implemented in the Motorola Droid, the Android OS has the same capabilities. The key is that the screen itself be touch-sensitive: As users of Acer's Aspire Android netbook have reported, a multitouch trackpad is not an adequate substitute. There are just too many times when you have to locate your fingers directly on objects on the screen, and moving a pointer first is just plain ugly. Imagine Tom Cruise trying to operate the "Minority Report" screens with a mouse. A multitouch screen can still be used with a trackpad, so users can keep their hands on the keyboard when they like.
Thinking outside the box, there is no reason a dream smartbook has to follow the clamshell bandwagon. Consider a twist-around touchscreen that lets you turn your smartbook into a netpad, like the Acer Aspire 1420p laptop does. Dreamalicious! Even a detachable, stowable keyboard is no fantasy feature.
2. Android buttons
Android smartphones use four dedicated hardware buttons -- Home, Menu, Back, and Search -- as integral components of the user interface. Android overloads these buttons with multiple functions, depending on whether the button is pressed once quickly, pressed and held (the "long press"), or double-clicked. For example, holding the Home button brings up a list of running applications, similar to typing Alt-Tab on a Windows notebook. Android phone users become intimately familiar with these functions, making them part of their gesture muscle memory. Regardless of whether that's good or bad, users transitioning between devices had better find Android's special buttons on any Android smartbook they use -- or else they'll quickly become frustrated.
Do the buttons have to be actual hardware? Not really: Virtual buttons on the trackpad, or even the touch screen itself, could be acceptable substitutes. As a corollary, the device should have hardware audio volume and mute controls, rather than double-duty keyboard buttons, to give users fast access to sound levels. Why? Because phones do, and many Android smartbook users will have Android smartphones. (Remember the outcry when Apple's first iPod Touch shipped without those physical controls?)