It seems that after Intel, just about every chip maker wants a piece of the netbook pie. AMD is an obvious competitor, but VIA is also eyeing the little notebooks. However, more exotic options like the Chinese Loongson chips and ARM’s Cortex A-8 and A-9 chips are also among the contenders. We can now add a new contender: Freescale.
It is expected that at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Freescale will show off a netbook built by Pegatron (an Asus spin-off), powered by the company’s i.MX515 processor, an ARM Cortex A-8 based processor which can scale up to 1Ghz. It will support 3D graphics as well as the playback of high definition video. Freescale’s marketing director, Glen Burchers, claims that the device will deliver a battery lifetime of 8 hours, which is quite a lot more than devices built around Intel’s Atom architecture.
More importantly, however, Freescale hopes to break the all-important 199 USD barrier, making devices based on their chip a lot cheaper than competing Atom-based netbooks. Freescal hopes to target teenagers. “”We believe the netbook is a device that is going to be primarily targeted at Internet access, that is a companion device to computers and to smartphones. It is not a replacement for either,” Burchers said. He further stated that the chips will ship in the middle of 2009, and that some computer makers are considering shipping the chip, although he didn’t state any names.
An obvious limitation – for some – is that such a netbook would not be able to run Windows. Instead, Freescale is focused on Linux, and the company is working with Canonical to develop an Ubuntu version aimed at the ARM architecture.
2009 Is going to be an interesting year for the netbook market. Various companies are aiming for this fast-growing segment, and it seems like there will be enough options to choose from. Whether or not the non-x86 contenders will be able to make any serious dent in the largely x86-focused netbook market remains to be seen. An important factor will be whether or not the ARM-based netbooks can live up to the expectations regarding battery life.
For diversity’s and competition’s sake, I sue do hope so.