New electronic devices could interest schools

But under the hood, it’s less powerful than a netbook because it uses a weaker class of processors.

The Skylight is slated to be available in April at $499, though AT&T might subsidize the cost for users who also sign up for a data plan.

Computer makers also are coming out with devices that are thin and light like netbooks, but have more powerful processors and screens that are a bit larger, at 11 inches to 13 inches. The price tags are be a bit heftier, at $400 to $600.

Philip Osako, a director of product marketing for Japanese electronics company Toshiba Corp., said those laptops should resonate with consumers who want an affordable gadget that can do more than surf the web and check eMail on the go. As it is, netbooks aren’t good at demanding tasks such as viewing high-quality video.

“It’s the natural step up from the netbook,” he said. “It’s also a sweet spot relative to where full-size traditional notebooks are.”

At the same time, PC makers are releasing a new generation of improved netbooks.

Lenovo, a fairly early player in the netbook market, is showing the latest entrants to that line at CES, one of which has a 10-inch touch screen that swivels around to become a tablet.

The new S10-3t model, like Apple Inc.’s iPhone, will understand multiple finger gestures, allowing you to pinch the screen to zoom in and out of photos, for instance. It will have Intel’s latest Atom processor, which should consume less power and depict graphics better than an earlier version.

The S10-3t is expected to be available in January for $500, while a similar model without a swiveling touch screen will cost $350.

Toshiba, meanwhile, is demonstrating the mini NB305. It keeps the 10.1-inch screen and full-sized keyboard available on the company’s current mini NB205 model but adds the new Atom processor and 11 hours of battery life, two more hours than before. The netbook is expected to be available Jan. 12 with prices that start at $350.

New eBook readers

For the first time, eBook readers have their own section of the CES exhibit hall floor, with 23 exhibitors hoping to follow Inc.’s Kindle to the cusp of the mainstream.

Samsung, the leading maker of phones and TVs for the U.S. market, is launching eBook readers early this year, it announced at CES–joining a host of manufacturers who hope to capitalize on the shift away from paper books.

Samsung will be launching two models with 6-inch and 10-inch “electronic ink” screens, similar to the sizes of Amazon’s Kindle models. Users of the devices will be able to download public-domain books from Google Inc. via Wi-Fi, and the e-readers will come with styluses so users can write on the screen.

The models will cost $399 and $699, respectively, Samsung didn’t say who would provide for-pay eBooks for the devices.

Also, Sprint Nextel Corp. said it has made a multiyear deal with a startup called Skiff for a thin eBook reader that operates over Sprint’s high-speed 3G network, as well as over Wi-Fi.

The Skiff Reader will have an 11.5-inch screen, larger than those on competing devices such as the Kindle, Sony Corp.’s Reader, and Barnes & Noble Inc.’s Nook.

Sprint and Skiff tout the device as the thinnest to date, at just over a quarter of an inch thick. The e-reader’s entire page will be a touch screen, unlike the Kindle, which uses physical buttons for navigation, or the Nook, which has a small built-in touch screen separate from the book page.

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