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Lenovo announces Skylight smartbook, smaller than a Netbook

With a thin frame and a nonstandard OS, Lenovo's entry into the world of smartbooks meshes smartphone with Netbook.

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Do you believe in smartbooks yet? Smaller than Netbooks, running custom OSes and miniature smartphone processors, these newly-coined devices are supposed to offer the best of smartphone convenience with the form factor of a Netbook. They're ready to start appearing on the scene, and Lenovo has one of the first with their Skylight.

With a 10.1-inch screen, it's not exactly a supersmall device compared to an iPhone--but it is much thinner than nearly any Netbook. With built-in 3G and Wi-Fi, Lenovo promises a seamless browsing experience. The OS, however, is not Windows, or even Ubuntu: it's a Linux-based custom OS with "web gadgets" for accessing functions such as Gmail and Facebook, sounding much like a smartphone's apps. The Skylight comes with 18 built in, including Amazon MP3 and Roxio CinemaNow to add music and movie purchasing.

A promised 10 hours-plus of battery life sounds tempting, but of course we'd have to see that for ourselves. And how well does it play videos? That also remains to be seen, but we're hopeful. Ports are sparse and compact, but present: 2 USB (1 in a strange flip-jack form), SD and micro-SDHC card slots, a SIM card slot, and even mini-HDMI. 20 GB of flash memory are included, plus 2GB of Lenovo cloud storage.

Carriers have not been announced, but the estimated price--$499--sounds daunting and begging to be subsidized. Otherwise, smartbooks could be a very short-lived trend indeed. We'll be getting a closer look at these at CES.