Freescale Launches Tablet Reference Design

Apple certainly isn’t going to be the first to announce a 7-10″ thing tablet computer. We already had the Joo Joo, and now Freescale has joined in on the fun with a 7″ tablet reference design. Let’s talk about Freescale’s tablet, and as hinted at during yesterday’s podcast, let’s spend/waste (pick one) a few words on Apple’s tablet as well.


Primarily, Freescale is an American semiconductor manufacturer producing all sorts of chips and silicon for the embedded market. The company designs and builds both PowerPC and ARM-based processors, and most Mac people will probably know Freescale as the supplier of Apple’s past PowerPC G3 and G4 chips. Now, the company has produced a reference design for a 7″ tablet.

The press release conveniently lists the specifications of the reference design:

  • Size: small/thin form factor (200mm x 128mm x 14.9cm and weighing 376 grams); no need for fan or heat sink

  • Processor: Freescale i.MX515 applications processor provides high performance and low power

    • ARM Cortex-A8 core

    • OpenVG & OpenGL/ES graphics cores

    • HD video decoder hardware

  • Power management IC:

    • Battery charging system for both USB and wall charging

    • Output buck converters for the processor core and memory

    • Boost converters for LCD backlighting

    • Serial backlight drivers for displays and keypad, plus RGB LED drivers

  • Display: 7-inch (1024 x 600) touch screen

  • Memory: 512 MB DDR2

  • Storage: 4-64 GB internal storage; removable micro SD

  • Connectivity: 3G modem (option) 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, RF4CE (option)

  • Ports: USB 2.0 and USB mini (also for charging), audio in/audio out, SIM card

  • Audio: speaker, microphone

  • Camera: 3 Mpixel (video recording up to VGA @ 30fps)

  • Battery: 1900mAh, USB charging

  • Sensors: MMA8450Q 3-axis accelerometer and an ambient light sensor

Pricing is interesting: Freescale claims this can be sold at less than 200 USD, which is considerably cheaper than the Joo Joo. Of course, the reference design doesn’t look exciting or pretty at all – the enclosure is a basic plastic one, ready to be replaced bys omething more fancy and durable, which will most likely jack up the price.

“Freescale’s new tablet opens the door to an exciting new world of compelling form factors specifically designed and optimized to support common online activities including social media, high-quality audio/video playback and light gaming,” said Henri Richard, senior VP of Sales and Marketing for Freescale, “We believe the tablet will emerge as a popular form factor for the next generation of smartbooks. By introducing this prototype reference design, Freescale intends to play a vital role in propelling the mainstream adoption of smartbooks.”

This is just an intermission, but where did the first generation of smartbooks go? We’ve been hearing promise after promise when it comes to ARM netbooks (smartbooks), but so far, little to nothing has come to fruition. Maybe things are different elsewhere in the world, but here in The Netherlands all I see is the bog-standard Atom-based frankenbooks (you know, power-efficient Atom processor coupled with a chipset from the stone age powered by coal).

In any case, Freescale will show off their tablet at CES, which starts later this week.


If you speak of tablet, you speak of Apple. The internet has been going absolutely bonkers with rumours over the holidays about the upcoming Apple tablet, but it seems like to me that Ars Technica’s John Siracusa has it more or less nailed with his prediction. If you’re holding out for Apple to include mind-control or access to the galactic mass relay network, you’re going to be disappointed.

“Instead of being all that people can imagine, it’ll just be what people expect: a mostly unadorned color touch screen that’s bigger than an iPhone but smaller than a MacBook,” Siracusa writes, “If I’m being generous, I’ll allow that maybe it’ll be something a bit more exotic than a plain LCD display.” According to Siracusa, three things will make Apple’s tablet stand out, even without technological shininess: customers (Apple has more than 100000 customers with credit cards thanks to iTunes), developers (think App Store), and relationships (with content providers).

That last one is interesting, as it will most likely mean Apple will court print publishers, rumours of which have already appeared in the media. It means that apart from audio and video, the iTunes Store will also offer print content, ranging from newspapers to comic books. Siracusa thinks this content will be delivered in a new format for electronic print media distribution.

“It will most likely be based on web technologies, much like the iTunes LP format,” Siracusa believes, “Best case (but also the least likely), it’ll be a slightly incompatible extension of the ePub standard. Worst case (and most likely), it’ll be an entirely new format. Either way, like iTunes LP, the format will be publicly documented and there’ll be an SDK available to all interested parties – eventually.”

We’ll all know for sure January 27. In the meantime, I’m much more excited about tomorrow, when we will finally know what the new Amiga will be like!


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