Earlier this year, Freescale announced it would enter the netbook market with its own set of chips based on the ARM architecture, claiming they would yield better battery life than the Atom-based netbooks of today. The company gave a little more info today, and among other things, they want to support Google’s Android on their netbooks.
Freescale is clearly aiming for a market below the current netbooks, and they are striving for a price point of less than 200 USD, maybe even 100 USD. Their target market is young users in the west, and their netbooks will only provide Wi-Fi connectivity. “For price reasons, the netbooks are going to primarily be shipped with just Wi-Fi. For mobile professional users, you do need 3G connectivity,” Glen Burchers, marketing director for Freescale’s consumer business, said.
Apart from Android, Freescale will also support Xandros Linux and the Phoenix Technologies’ HyperSpace. Freescale believes that the netbook market will rise to 30 million units this year, and that ARM can eventually make up half of that. The focus of the company is currently on developed markets. “I think for developed countries you’ll see good, better and best,” Burchers explained, “I believe the good and better will be based on ARM. I believe the best will be Atom-based and will still run Windows, because you can do more with it.”
The success of the ARM-based netbook will depend on how customers perceive these machines. ARM netbook manufacturers, who will all ship their devices with Linux, will need to market their netbooks not as ordinary laptops, but as device closer to phones. If customers perceive these machines as ordinary (but small) laptops, a lot of them will wonder why they don’t come with Windows. Market them as a sort of special device, and people will much more readily accept that they do not run Windows (see mobile phones).
Still, capturing half of the netbook market seems a bit of a stretch. With Intel, AMD, and Via already in the game, it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a chance for Freescale. In any case, the first ARM-based netbooks will appear on the market during the summer of 2009.