Contract PC manufacturer Inventec expects to begin shipping its first laptop based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon microprocessor later this year, it said today.

Inventec, a Taiwanese company that makes laptops on behalf of several of the world's best-known PC brand names, is developing up to four Snapdragon laptop models for customers, said Mark Hirsch [cq], vice president for marketing at the company.

The Snapdragon processor is based on the Arm microprocessor core and will compete with Intel's Atom, which currently powers most available netbooks. The chip should offer battery life of up to 6 hours, a physically smaller body and better integration with 3G networks, though it doesn't support the mainstream Windows operating system.

Inventec's latest reference design, running the Millos Linux operating system on a 10.1in screen, will be displayed by Qualcomm this week at Computex in Taipei. The laptop, intended to demonstrate the possibilities of the platform but not be a commercial product, uses a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU. It features a 1,024 by 600 pixel resolution screen, a 64GB flash disk and integrated 3G wireless. It weighs about 800 grams.

Inventec Snapdragon

The laptop is similar to many netbooks, but Qualcomm has coined the term 'smartbook' to distinguish its ultra-portable laptops from others.

Many laptop makers are considering using Android, the Google-developed operating system, in such machines. One advantage Android may have over Linux is the sizable marketing power that Google could bring to its promotion.

Inventec is experimenting with the operating system but development work remains to be done before it can be used in such machines, Hirsch said.

"It has tremendous potential, it just may not have been realized yet," he said.

See more:

Netbook reviews