Freescale Plans Reference Design for Linux ARM Netbooks

Feb 26, 2009

When will power-saving and affordable ARM netbooks become available? Freescale Semiconductor has ventured into an advanced standard, albeit with their homegrown i.MX515 chip.

At the company's own Freescale Technology Forum (FTF 2009) in Orlando FL, June 2009, Freescale plans to present its reference design for ARM-based netbooks, with Linux as their platform. The announced technical sessions at the forum include ones such as "Designing Thinner and Cost-Effective Netbooks." Freescale is currently developing a netbook based on their ARM Cortex A8-based i.MX515 system-on-a-chip (SoC) along with hardware vendor Pegatron. The i.MX515 offers, next to its ARM core, numerous useful features such as OpenGL ES 2.0, a NEON SIMD media accelerator and vector floating-point processor, two digital display formats, HD720p video output and a DDR2 external memory interface.

Freescale is not alone. Qualcomm also wants to see its Snapdragon, another versatile SoC, as a reference chip for ARM netbooks. Marvell, which acquired Intel's XScale microprocessor core, is also drumming for its Kirkwood SoC, which is also part of Marvell's SheevaPlug development kit. NVIDIA Tegra is yet another player in the game.

As to when these super-affordable and power-saving Linux netbooks should become available, all is mute. No company has ventured a concrete timeline, although Freescale has already presented a prototype of its Pegatron netbook at the International CES in January. An implementation by end of 2009 is possible based on already existing software support. Not only does Ubuntu already offer an ARM version, but Xandros and MontaVista as well.

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  • Bring it on ...

    I am in the market for a netbook and it would be really useful but have been putting it off because of the ARM possibilities in the near future. Now they have a firmer timeline, sure, I can wait til the end of the year. Being into the idea of environmentally responsible computing and building the occasional box with the goal of making it no more than what is required and energy efficient components, I have been looking forward to a greener approach from the netbook world. This is the response. I also use Ubuntu so the computing future couldn't look better!

    My concerns? Efficient batteries (these should run for a week, we almost have the technology) and a 10 year guarantee (we almost have the technology, esp. the exterior). These things will happen though, you would have to imagine, when it is unavoidable and we are knee deep in <3 year old irreparable, obsolete netbooks. Even if there is still money to be made you can only take so much landfill. The cheap price makes the netbook a perfect throw-away consumer item. This is not good for the environment (many don't offer warranty for more than a year).
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