Home > gadgets, linux, smartbooks, ubuntu, Uncategorized > Toshiba AC100 smartbook: with Android but why?

Toshiba AC100 smartbook: with Android but why?

The AC100 smartbook, recently announced by Toshiba, has some intriguing features, worth to blog about. First of all, it is built around Nvidia’s Tegra2 system-on-chip (SOC). The Tegra2 is a powerful, ARM SOC with two generic application processing cores and integrated media cores (AV decoding/encoding…etc). The AC100 is the most promising netbook form-factor machine with Tegra2 to date. (Of course there are a lot of Tegra2 based systems announced, but those are mostly tablets). Smartbooks already on the market (HP Airlife, Sharp Netwalker), suffer from lack of performance (due to a combination of underpowered, single-core, Cortex A8-level SOCs and/or slow RAM) and are not considered as breakthrough products (at least not in the blogosphere).

The AC100 has a chance to be a successful product in the netbook/smartbook category. Although the hardware has some weaknesses (only 512Mb of RAM instead of at least 1Gb, only one USB port, very small resolution LCD), it has a solid brand name written on it, and the Nvidia foundations are appealing.

I expect the factory installed Android 2.1 perform acceptably but I don’t think it is the ideal OS for this device. Android’s touch oriented GUI won’t shine on the AC100 simply because the machine lacks a touch-screen and Android’s software selection is simply no match for this hardware.

Laptop-like smartbooks with keyboards (like the AC100) are much better served with a full-desktop Linux due to the fact, that on these devices, buyers will expect full-fledged applications like OpenOffice, Thunderbird, Firefox…etc. Android would be very limiting for the use cases expected from a netbook/smartbook (editing complex text documents, spreadsheets, using a full-fledged browser, email client…etc). Tegra2 with 1Gb of fast RAM could run OpenOffice and other desktop software with good performance. Instead, it will be reduced to run mini, Android versions of the real stuff (what is available for Android instead of OO and such). I believe, at this point, Android is much more suitable for content consumption, than content creation. In contrast, the AC100 hardware is definitely suitable for the latter and many potential buyers will find Android as insufficient for their purposes.

I just hope that Nvidia & Toshiba get their act together and quickly release an Ubuntu variant for Tegra2 based systems because I am afraid the OS part of their AC100 offering is much weaker than the hardware. The Android 2.1 can remain the factory default but the easy install option of a solid, full-desktop OS should be provided (Ubuntu/ARM is just that). I would also suggest increasing the amount of RAM and the USB ports in order to make the product directly comparable to Atom netbooks (and not be ashamed after the comparison). With these improvements, Toshiba could create a very strong contender for the business of those who are waiting for a powerful smartbook or tablet and not willing to compromise with Apple’s offering.

  1. MLC
    June 28, 2010 at 06:13

    I would have to whole-heartedly agree. People don’t seem to realize that Ubuntu runs really well on 512 MB of RAM, and it’s definitely not skimping unless you wanna’ play games like Nexuiz- which, again, if you have the right video card, would actually play just fine on that computer.

    People really shouldn’t underestimate the power of Linux on limited hardware.

  2. Jens
    June 28, 2010 at 09:26

    I do not agree with your assessment for the simple reason that most consumers of these devices will be content consumers who prefer a keyboard rather than a touch interface when writing (chatting, writing e-mail etc). The form factor itself is not focused on full content creation (laptop replacement).

    For us geeks, the device will be a dream and it should be easy to run a debian (or other dist chroot aimed at ARM) to get access to all the OSS software that you might need on it without loosing out on whatever their custom Android has to offer. If they are smart, they offer a “full linux” chroot setup as an optional install with a desktop shortcut (sort of like the easydebian for the N900).

    I definitely look forward to this release and the Compaq Airlife aswell (eventhough I am not that into the touch addition to a laptop form factor) and I definitely think they can fill a role that is yet to be satisfied as companion devices and temporary laptop/desktop replacements when on the move.

    • Jens
      June 29, 2010 at 06:30

      Addition: The Android ARM smartbook + full GNU/linux chroot feels better and better the more I think about it as combining the best of two worlds and fullfilling two different needs. Probably Debian/ARM or perhaps Gentoo/ARM would be the best bet due to the wide range of packages available.

      The only issue I can see might be the RAM. It feels like they have invested in a very powerful processor whereas the 512MiB RAM might be a performance bottle neck when running multiple applications. I wonder if it will be possible to extend that as easily as one can do it on x86 hardware.

      • Soltész András
        June 29, 2010 at 08:15


        I also believe that the RAM is a limiting factor. I hope they will provide a version with at least 1Gb of RAM so full-desktop environments could run well.

  3. turn.self.off
    June 28, 2010 at 09:30

    i would perhaps give this a spin on such a smartbook before writing off android completely:

  4. sherlin1234
    June 28, 2010 at 09:38

    At this point I wonder if smartbooks like Toshiba A100 will be more capable than yet to see Chrome OS machines and have better user experience than netbooks with desktop operating systems.


  5. June 28, 2010 at 13:34

    I have used the Ubuntu Netbook Edition on my netbook for well over a year, and it works exceptionally well for that form factor. The MeeGo netbook edition would also be an excellent fit, since the UI is custom designed for small non-touchscreens with keyboard and trackpad.

    Our family owns and enjoys one Android phone, and plan to add more this year. IMHO, Google should invest in a non-touch UI option for netbooks and a way to segregate out apps that are impractical with keyboard and trackpad to build and sustain momentum in the netbook space.

  6. G Fernandes
    June 28, 2010 at 16:15

    OpenOffice for ARM is only available in Debian Experimental. You wouldn’t seriously expect Toshiba to use that would you?

    This is true for many desktop applications that are available trivially for x86 based architectures.

    It is a mistake to presume that if an application is licensed under a Free Software license, and works on an x86 compatible platform, that application will work on any hardware platform.

    • Soltész András
      June 28, 2010 at 17:25

      I have used OpenOffice, Gnumeric, Abiword (all compiled for ARM, running without major instabilities) about 2-3 years ago on my Sharp Zaurus. I don’t think that I used Debian experimental :).

      A very large chunk of open-source Linux apps need only a recompile for ARM.

      For example, OpenOffice is originally designed to be multi-platform. The architecture and applied development methods/libraries mostly take care of the x86/ARM difference as they take care of the Windows/Linux differences.

      The rest is optimizations and packaging. Optimizations may be problematic because ARM smart/net/notebooks are not yet widespread but that will come. Packaging is an easier task you only need Linux-savvy engineers.

  7. KenP
    June 29, 2010 at 01:07

    I am all for Android. Ubuntu is too polarised to one end of the desktop environment look and feel, which may or may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

    Also, Ubuntu is almost ‘forcing’ the OSX like interface on its users. Android provides a different yet functional interface.

  8. anymouse
    June 29, 2010 at 01:56

    sorry, but ubuntu..but why?!

  9. June 29, 2010 at 11:49

    I agree with you that Ubuntu would be a better choice for a smartbooks. But everybody doesn’t see Linux as we see it. Most of people think that it’s a Geeky complicated OS, made for hackers and crackers that spend their entire life in their basement. And it’s very hard to make people change their mind. Big companies like Toshiba think that using Linux on a smartbook could mean its premature dead.
    But Android is different. It’s a new OS, that feet well on smartphones, and some says it has serious chances to compete with the iPhone OS.
    So I think Toshiba (and Lenovo) prefer using a well-known OS like Android, that will not afraid people, than a Geeky OS like Ubuntu, that may discourage people to buy it.

  10. June 29, 2010 at 21:22

    This post is very goog Thanks

  11. Phil
    June 29, 2010 at 23:40

    One word really….marketing. I agree that Android is probably the wrong choice but the Android name will sell it won’t. It’s really stupid and I hate the fact that great things like desktop Linux can’t catch on in the mainstream because of zombie consumers. I love my Android phone but Android on a netbook just doesn’t cut it for me. On a tablet yes….netbook…no.

  12. Witek
    July 8, 2010 at 02:35

    wight? price? screen resolution?

  13. darethehair
    July 13, 2010 at 01:04

    This sounds promising to me:


    I agree that this device would be more appealing with a full-blown Linux distro. On the other hand, the *option* of switching into Android might be nice too 🙂

  14. pml
    September 18, 2010 at 13:37

    Hi everybody,

    as I think there are many people out there who face this problem, I decided to launch a Wiki about the AC100, focusing on alternative operating systems.
    I would be very happy to see that we can concentrate our efforts and share our wisdom in this Wiki. There is also a discussion forum available at the bottom of each page.

    Access it at: http://http://tosh-ac100.wetpaint.com/

    Looking forward to meeting you there!

  15. September 24, 2010 at 06:33


  16. December 17, 2010 at 21:43

    Hi – very great site you have established. I enjoyed reading this posting. I did want to write a comment to tell you that the design of this site is very aesthetically sweet. I used to be a graphic designer, now I am a copy editor for a magazine firm. I have always enjoyed functioning with information processing systems and am trying to learn code in my free time (which there is never enough of lol).

  17. Misha
    December 20, 2010 at 17:09

    The device should also have matte screen, not this glossy screen with annoying reflections!

  18. January 12, 2013 at 21:31

    I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post
    was great. I do not know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

  19. May 8, 2013 at 19:58

    In fact, it is within the price range that is estimated
    for other impressive tablets that can be found in the market.
    This gadget is one of the best buys around if you are looking for
    the cheapest Internet tablets. The actual pc is usually Wi-Fi enabled and can
    connect to web anywhere.

  1. June 29, 2010 at 16:20
  2. May 9, 2011 at 11:06

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