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Qualcomm smartbooks incoming: thinner than Air, ultrabooks

Qualcomm promised devices slimmer than Intel's ultrabooks, and now it looks like it's going to make good on it.

Ultrabooks and the MacBook Air could soon look positively portly. Qualcomm is working on a quad-core version of its Snapdragon S4 chip, and, if the company is to be believed, the Windows 8 laptops it goes in will be thinner and lighter than anything currently available.

Rob Chandhok, senior vice president at Qualcomm, told PC World the devices -- which it calls smartbooks -- will be "much lighter than what Intel calls an ultrabook".

The chips are based on a core made by ARM, and will enable laptops to have high-resolution screens, long battery life, and always-on connectivity, according to Chandhok. The chips will include an integrated modem and graphics core capable of showing off 3D graphics, making the smartbooks ideal for gaming.

Qualcomm actually promised these kinds of devices back in 2009, but as yet has had nothing to show beyond some prototypes. Lenovo planned to launch the Skylight (pictured here), the first smartbook, but shelved it in favour of Android devices.

Chandhok pointed out the line between high-end smart phones and laptops has started to blur, with handsets offering more power and bigger screens. The company has shipped to developers some prototype Windows 8 PCs equipped with Snapdragon chips. The smartbooks are expected to go on sale in the second half of this year.

Some ultrabooks, powered by Intel chips, have impressed us so far, though they do come with relatively high prices. At the other end of the scale, Chromebooks have always-on capability for a fraction of the price, with much less power. Though they have gone quite quiet of late. Maybe it's because Google is focusing its energies on its upcoming tablet.

A more powerful MacBook Air or a much thinner and lighter MacBook Pro is widely expected to launch this summer too, which should make things interesting. It's rumoured to pack a retina display as well, like the new iPad. The good news? Regardless who you favour, there should be an awesome slim and light laptop for you.

What would you like to see from smartbooks? What would they need to do to beat ultrabooks? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook page.