Freescale Aids In Making $100 Netbooks Reality

The chipmaker says its i.MX515 processor is less expensive and delivers longer battery life than Intel's Atom chip.
Freescale Semiconductor says its netbook reference design using the company's ARM-based processor running Android or other versions of Linux can produce a $100 netbook.

The chipmaker in January entered the mini-laptop market with the introduction of the i.MX515 processor, which the company claims is less expensive and delivers longer battery life than Intel's Atom processor, which dominates the fast-growing netbook market today.

In an interview with Reuters news agency at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Freescale marketing director Glen Burchers said the company believes its reference design and technology would do well in the low-end and middle of the netbook market.

"I think for developed countries you'll see good, better, and best," Burchers said Tuesday. "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."

Freescale believes netbooks built on its technology will cost as little as $100. The company says it's talking to Encore Software, which is reportedly planning to sell large quantities of ultracheap netbooks to the Indian government as part of an education program, Reuters reported.

Earlier at MWC, Freescale announced that it had expanded operating system support for the i.MX515 to Google-developed Android, as well as Linux flavors from Phoenix Technologies and Xandros. Freescale also has added to its design connectivity to wireless carriers' 3G networks. The reference design, developed jointly with device-manufacturer Pegatron, originally supported Wi-Fi and Canonical's Ubuntu Linux.

Freescale, which competes with wireless chip companies Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, said it has sent samples of the i.MX515 processor to Tier 1 netbook manufacturers and expects to begin volume production of the chip in the second quarter. Netbooks sporting the processor are expected to ship in time for the holiday shopping season.

Netbooks are the fastest-selling segment of the PC market. Shipments of the lightweight ultraportables are expected to quadruple to 139 million units in 2013 from 35 million this year, according to ABI Research. The mini-laptops typically have screens of 10 inches or smaller, run either Windows or Linux, and cost less than $500. Many machines cost as little as $300, and some as low as $200.

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