Smartphones already act like mini computers—they send e-mail, play YouTube, let you shop on eBay. Now laptop makers are getting wise. Instead of trying to create ever-sleeker machines by shrinking ordinary PC parts, they’re tacking bigger screens and keyboards onto high-end cellphone brains. Witness the three-quarter-inch-thick, letter-paper-size Lenovo Skylight, which surfs the Web for 10 hours on a single charging cycle.
It’s one of several new “smartbooks” built around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, a low-power phone chipset that has a 3G data link and stays cool without bulky fans. Most smartbooks, like the Skylight, run a version of Linux or a mobile operating system, not Windows, because Microsoft Office productivity isn’t the point. The goal is always-on Internet, reflected in the business model: Expect the list price to plunge if you sign up for a cell data plan, as your laptop becomes as tied to the airwaves as your phone.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.