When a big player dips a little toe in a fast-growing new market, it can attract some attention. The player, in this case is No. 1 PC maker Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ - Get Report). And the new market is netbooks. But the real attention-getter is that this particular move involves Qualcomm's ( QCOM - Get Report) Snapdragon chips. Foxconn is lining up to supply H-P with Snapdragon-powered smartbooks for later this year, says Collins Stewart analyst Ashok Kumar. When asked about the matter, a representative for H-P told TheStreet.com: "We don't comment on rumors or products that may or may not be under way."
The move would mark a significant departure from the standard PC chip path. HP's PCs, laptops and even its netbooks have used either Intel ( INTC - Get Report) or AMD ( AMD) processors. A switch, however small, by H-P to Snapdragon could be a major endorsement of Qualcomm's smartbook strategy. "If I were Intel, I'd be trembling," says Argus Research analyst Jim Kelleher, referring to the smartbook threat posed by Snapdragon. So what's a smartbook, you might ask. Qualcomm prefers the name smartbooks to netbooks because it conjures up a hybrid between smartphones and notebooks. Qualcomm has several manufacturers working with Snapdragon including Acer, Asus, Foxconn, HTC, LG, Samsung and Toshiba. In another threat to the PC Wintel establishment, smartbooks use Linux operating systems and not Microsoft's ( MSFT - Get Report) Windows programs. The disadvantage is that users can't run common Microsoft programs like Word or Outlook. The advantage is that a Linux laptop has eight-hour battery life, instant-on power-up and an always-on 3G wireless data connection. The move would also support the notion that Foxconn is helping another big player -- Nokia ( NOK - Get Report) enter the netbook race, presumably with Qualcomm's Snapdragon.