Sharp Goes Smartbook With 5" Ubuntu-Based NetWalker Handheld

If you haven't generated a UMPC/MID/Tablet PC of your own by now, you've probably missed the boat. In an effort to catch the last vessel out, Sharp has this week introduced a new portable PC that isn't likely to sell well based on figures from prior attempts, but it's certainly a compelling device. The so-called mini mobile PC is designed to boot up quickly, support touch inputs and recognize key presses via a QWERTY keyboard. One could say that this unit slides into the confusing new "smartbook" category, which is designed to please those who feel that a smartphone is too small and a netbook too large.

This "NetWalker" device ships with a 5" high-resolution touch panel (1024x600), 800MHz Freescale i.MX515 processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of Flash storage, a microSDHC expansion slot, Wi-Fi, a pair of USB sockets and a keyboard that's just 68% full-size. There's also a non-removable battery that can survive for ten solid hours before needing a recharge. Also known as the PC-Z1, Sharp describes its flip-open PC as a "Mobile Internet Tool," one that will "sell well as a product of an unprecedented genre." In fact, Masafumi Matsumoto, executive vice president of Sharp noted that the Ubuntu-based device will "be the first blockbuster product in a while," but again, we have our doubts about just how many people will select this over an iPhone and/or $299 netbook.

The unit will initially ship in Japan next month for around $480, though Sharp has yet to nail down a specific launch date for international markets.