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Thin Intel Netbook to vie with MacBook Air?

The Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai was the showplace for Netbook portable PCs. Some of the upcoming designs look intriguing--and extremely thin.

During a keynote speech at the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai, an Intel executive brandished a Netbook that looked Air-thin. Will inexpensive Linux Netbooks be a poor man's MacBook Air?

Ultrathin Intel Atom-based Netbook shown at IDF
Ultrathin Intel Atom-based Netbook shown at IDF. Intel

Most of the photos to date of upcoming Netbooks are ho-hum designs, engineered to be inexpensive yet practical for users such as young schoolchildren. But some upcoming designs look intriguing--and extremely thin. (See close-up photo here--PC Watch.)

"This Netbook is running Linux...As you see, this doesn't mean an ugly design. It's a really nice-looking, stylish design," said Dadi Perlmutter, executive vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobility Group, when waving a very-thin-looking Netbook (photo) at the audience during his keynote at IDF.

Consider the typical specifications for a Netbook (best exemplified by the tiny Eee PC) and it's not a stretch to design an ultraportable, ultrathin Netbook:

Power-sipping Atom processor: This chip will draw as little as 0.65 watt, much less than the Air's Core 2 Duo chip which has a TDP (Thermal Design Power, or thermal envelope) of 20 watts. This means less heat dissipation.

Solid-state drive: Netbooks (Eee PC, Intel Classmate) will typically use SSDs, not hard-disk drives--another power- and space-saving feature. (There will be exceptions such as the 2go, which packs a hard drive.)

No optical drive:: Typically, Netbooks won't come with optical drives--meaning power and cost savings.

Smaller display: Netbooks will have small, less-power-hungry displays, ranging from seven to nine inches.

Though not as well-endowed as full-fledged notebooks like the MacBook Air, Netbooks won't set you back $3,000 either. It's likely that the price will be much closer to $300--but that's a big unknown at this point.

Intel sees two distinct market opportunities for the Netbook. In the developing world, Netbooks will attract first-time buyers. In more mature markets, they will become supplemental PCs.

Click here for more stories on IDF Shanghai.