Freescale Targets Chips At Netbooks


Freescale Semiconductor expects its chips to be in netbooks — or “smartbooks,” as it calls them — shipping later this year

Freescale Semiconductor has announced that the first netbooks using its chips will debut this year, with shipments reaching 1.5 million units by 2010, according to Bloomberg.

In January, at the Consumer Electronics Show, the company first displayed its new netbook-intended design, which it calls the i.MX515, and which features a system-on-a-chip platform based on an ARM Cortex-A8 processor.

Once the semiconductor division of Motorola, Freescale makes microprocessors, microcontrollers, power management solutions and other embedded products for automotive, consumer, industrial, networking and wireless applications.

With General Motors, a large customer, filing for bankruptcy on 1 June, Freescale is ready to grow new opportunities.

“The exciting thing for us in that space is that it’s all potential new revenue growth because we don’t have a business in that,” Henri Richard, Freescale chief sales and marketing officer, told Bloomberg.

Additionally, Richard told Bloomberg that Freescale expects to sell three or four chips for each device, for a revenue of about $20 per netbook — or, “smartbook,” as it calls them — and that some of the chips will be based on ARM technology.

He also expects the first smartbooks to ship running the Linux operating system Ubuntu, while later models may run Google’s Android.

Freescale envisions smartbooks as devices featuring screens larger than those of smartphones, are cloud-computing-centric and offer persistent connectivity, all-day battery life and instant-on functionality, much like a cell phone.

However, it wanted to show that they could be a new category — versus simply mimicking PC clamshell designs — and so it challenged young designers at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) to rethink the form factor with Freescale’s i.MX515 processor in mind.

Freescale is currently displaying its favorite SCAD prototypes at the Computex show in Taiwan. While these are not the smartbook designs that will be shipping this year, they offer a glimpse at what’s possible, in part through low-power operation and no need for a fan.

Today the majority of netbooks run the Intel Atom processor, and netbook sales have contributed to Intel’s considerable market dominance.

However, with the introduction of its new ultra-low voltage processor on 2 June, Uday Marty, Intel’s director of basic mobility platforms, said that, more than netbooks, “Ultra-thin laptops are the new phenomenon.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to reflect corrections regarding Freescale’s attitude toward the automotive industry, which it says it is still 100 percent committed to and focused on.

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