From CES: Freescale Semiconductor
said yesterday it is rolling out a processor-based solution that could slash as
much as $100 from the price of so-called "netbooks."
Based on the company's new i.MX515
processor, the new solution includes three hardware blocks for video playback
and graphics, along with the CPU. Freescale engineers said they based the processor
on ARM Cortex-A8
core technology because it enabled them to minimize "netbook" costs and power
"We believe that the right price
point for a netbook is about $199, which is about $100 lower than where it's
been," said Glen Burchers, director of global marketing for the Consumer
Segment at Freescale Semiconductor. "The Cortex-A8 helps us get to that price
Netbooks are handheld devices that
provide Internet access, but are smaller than laptop computers. They are typically
targeted at 10- to 25-year-old users who spend significant amounts of time online.
Up until now, market prices for netbooks have hovered around the $300 to $350
Freescale's new comprehensive
reference design is an offshoot of its 2008 acquisition of SigmaTel, a company that
specialized in audio signal processors and controller chips. Using SigmaTel's
experience in consumer markets and building on the the ARM core, Freescale was
able to create the single-chip i.MX515 processor solution, while adding power
management and an operating system, and sell the whole package for less than
$20. Freescale says its effort contrasts sharply with that of earlier netbook
chipsets, which have typically incorporated three chips and have costs upwards
"That $40-delta is enough to result
in a $100 bill-of-materials reduction, when you add the margins back in,"
Burchers said the use of the
new solution will also significantly cut power consumption. While playing back
720p high-definition video, he said, the i.MX515 will consume just 0.25W.
As a result of the power consumption improvements, the new solution will
provide "all-day" battery life. In contrast, previous chip sets have reportedly
allowed 2 - 2.5 hours of operation using four lithium-ion batteries.
At this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Freescale will
team with Pegatron Corp. to
demonstrate a netbook using the new technology. The two companies will also
show a netbook reference design that features the i.MX515 processor, Canonical's Ubuntu operating system, a new
power management IC from Freescale, an ultra-low audio codec and Adobe Flash Lite
Freescale engineers said the
solution's Internet performance will not suffer as a result of its departure
from Intel X86 architecture, which has long been the accepted architecture of
"The Applie iPhone has done a
really good job of showing people that they don't need X86 to run the
Internet," Burchers said. "There is virtually no distinction between our
browsing performance and that of the Intel-based systems."