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New Generation of Netbooks: $199 and $299, Eight Hour Battery & Sexy Design

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Freescale and Pegatron are ushering a new generation of netbooks that will combine excellent battery life, good looks and low cost. The two partners are hoping to bring the ARM-based netbook to market within the next few months under the flagship of a major OEM at a retail price of $199 to $299.

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When I was invited to this private meeting and told the netbooks would be priced at $199 and $299 I expected to find flimsy plastic prototypes. I was pleasantly surprised by how good they looked and they felt extremely well built. The prototypes have 8.9-inch displays, but they may end up with 10-inch displays. This change could mean an even thinner profile.

They run on Linux, are designed purely as Web devices and will deliver up to eight hours of battery life. These prototypes were much thinner than other netbooks I’ve used, but still manage to have a full compliment of ports.

Details may change by the time this netbook reaches the marketplace, but I’m hoping its overall design stays intact.

I talked to Alain-De Lee, the industrial designer behind this product and he calls his design concept “Mass-tige,” or the idea of bringing prestigous-looking products to the mass market. He previously led design projects for Asus and came up with the look and feel of the Lamborghini special edition notebook.

Low-cost netbooks like these are going to put price pressure on other platforms, such as Intel Atom.

Here’s the official press release from Freescale:

Freescale Semiconductor targets the netbook market

Comprehensive solution based on ARM® technology designed to enable low-power, gigahertz performance netbooks at sub-$200 price points

AUSTIN, Texas Jan. 5, 2009 Freescale Semiconductor enters the fast-growing netbook market with a comprehensive solution designed to enable netbooks that feature 8.9 inch displays, deliver eight hours of battery life between charges and retail at sub-$200 price points.

Based on the new i.MX515 processor featuring ARM Cortexâ„¢-A8 technology, Freescale’s solution includes an impressive lineup of software, components and resources to help OEMs quickly develop and deploy compelling netbook products.

A comprehensive netbook reference design based on the i.MX515 processor is available now. Created in concert with Pegatron, the reference design features the i.MX515 processor, Canonical’s Ubuntu® operating system, a new power management IC from Freescale, the SGTL5000 ultra low-power audio codec and Adobe® Flash® Liteâ„¢ software, Adobe’s Flash Player for mobile phones and devices.

We see a huge opportunity in the netbook market as consumers demand more cost-effective and higher performing solutions,” said Lisa Su, senior vice president and general manager of Freescale’s Networking and Multimedia Group. Our solution for netbooks will enable OEMs to develop compelling products that feature cell phone-like battery life at extremely aggressive price points. We believe the combination of the i.MX515 processor and related enablement solutions will dramatically accelerate the evolution of this exciting new space.”

According to analyst firm ABI Research, consumers are expected to purchase 140 million netbooks in 2013, compared with only 15 million sold in 2008. Often priced between $300 and $400 (USD), netbooks are streamlined, embedded devices that provide more than enough performance for a host of Internet-based activities such as social networking, surfing the Web, using e-mail and other common tasks.

As was evident in the 2008 holiday season, the netbook market has exploded due to consumer demand for affordable and compact devices that allow users to conduct routine tasks like social networking or shopping on the Web,” said Philip Solis, principal analyst at ABI Research. The netbook market is still in its infancy, and it represents a huge market opportunity for companies like Freescale. As advanced platforms for netbooks become increasingly available, price points will drop and the market will expand.”

Unleashing ARM technology for netbook markets

Integrating an ARM Cortex-A8 core and manufactured using 65-nm process technology, Freescale’s new i.MX515 provides up to 2100 Dhrystone MIPS and can scale in performance from 600MHz to 1GHz. Advanced power management features included in the i.MX515 processor, such as a dedicated, hardware-based video acceleration block, allow for extended battery life and eliminate the need for fans or heat sinks.

By incorporating highly integrated devices and low-cost printed circuit boards, the Freescale solution is engineered to keep bill of materials low. In addition, the i.MX515 supports cost efficiency by featuring a memory interface supporting both DDR2 and mobile DDR1. While mobile DDR1 is ideal for the most power sensitive mobile Internet devices, DDR2 is better suited for netbooks as it provides low power at significantly less cost. Although the i.MX515 offers support for both, many competing Cortex-A8 platform options available today only offer mobile DDR1, limiting designers’ options to maximize cost savings.

The i.MX51 is one of the only processors to offer both OpenVG and OpenGL graphics cores, thereby enabling 2D and 3D graphics as well as Flash and SVG for enhanced user experiences. Video created for the Adobe Player is one of the leading video formats on the Internet today. Working with Adobe, Freescale plans to enable the Adobe software to run on the processor’s dedicated OpenVG graphics block, thereby extending battery life and enabling netbook web browsing experiences as rich and responsive as those on traditional PCs.

New netbook power management technology from Freescale

A key component of Freescale’s netbook solution is the new MC13982 power management IC. Integrating a variety of discrete functions into a single device, the MC13982 contributes to reduced size and weight of end products while extending their battery life through innovative power management and control features. The device incorporates a battery charging system, four adjustable buck converters for powering the processor core and memory, two boost converters for LCD backlighting, and RGB LED displays along with serial backlighting drivers for display and keypad.

About Adobe Flash Platform

The Adobe Flash Platform is the de facto standard for delivering breakthrough applications, content and video on the Web. Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Flash Liteâ„¢ are on over 98 percent of connected computers and more than 800 million devices, and deliver more than 80 percent of Web video worldwide, ensuring that content and applications are presented consistently in the format users want. For more information on the Adobe Flash Platform, visit www.adobe.com/flashplatform.

Availability

Freescale’s netbook reference design is available now. The company is currently sampling the i.MX515 processor and MC13982 power management device to tier one netbook customers. Volume production for the i.MX515 device is planned for Q2 2009 to power netbooks designed for the 2009 holiday shopping season.

About Freescale Semiconductor

Freescale Semiconductor is a global leader in the design and manufacture of embedded semiconductors for the automotive, consumer, industrial, networking and wireless markets. The privately held company is based in Austin, Texas, and has design, research and development, manufacturing or sales operations in more than 30 countries. Freescale is one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies with 2007 sales of $5.7 billion (USD). www.freescale.com

Supporting comments from Freescale partners follow

Adobe: “Freescale’s netbook solution based on the new i.MX51 applications processor is an ideal platform for showcasing the rich graphics and video capabilities that Adobe Flash Platform enables with Flash Lite,” said Danny Winokur, senior director for business development, Platform Business Unit at Adobe. “With the combination of advanced processing intelligence from Freescale and rich Internet experiences delivered by Adobe software, consumers can look forward to compelling new netbook products in 2009 and beyond.”

ARM: Consumer demand for all-day, always-on Internet experiences requires the power-efficiency and performance of the 1GHz Cortex-A8 processor,” said Mike Inglis, executive vice president and general manager for the Processor Division of ARM Limited. With leading edge ARM technology onboard, Freescale’s i.MX515 system-on-chip is an outstanding device that will play a key role in the evolution of the dynamic and fast-growing netbook space.”

Canonical: The increasing uptake of Ubuntu by computer manufacturers demonstrates how it is ideally suited to meet customer expectations for netbooks,” said Canonical’s director of OEM Services, Chris Kenyon. Netbook buyers want small form factor, lightweight devices that offer all day computing, fast access to Web, email and entertainment, and a mobile-oriented user interface. The i.MX515 processor’s onboard graphics and performance and power consumption characteristics make it a great platform to run Ubuntu.”

71 Comments

  1. Lyle Howard Seave

    January 8, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Hey there,

    Followed the link here from Liliputing.com….

    I am curious as to the ‘feel’ of the computer…does it feel sluggish running Firefox w/ a half dozen extensions compared to a EEE, Acer or Dell?

    How about OO?

    Our Dell has been used to record and edit podcasts with Audacity and work on some logos/graphics with GIMP so I have yet to find them underpowered (I had a 10 year old T21 running Puppy Linux before so it practically felt like Im running dual core) but let’s face it, 98% of the time its, OO, FF3, Amarok and VLC that we use on our netbook.

    If we can do those things just as well, I have no problems w/ ARM processor.

    Is an ARM processor stronger than the P3-800 my T21 had? Because Ive run various light Linux distros like Puppy and DSL on P3′s and P2′s that we saved from the scrap and then gave away and they were very usable for the general surfing, emailing, IM, etc..

    Ubuntu is the ‘in’ marketing thing but it is a resource hog and would be the last thing I would use on such a low powered netbook.

    Oh yeah, can the ARM run Skype?

    > told the netbooks would be priced at $199 and >$299 I expected to find flimsy plastic prototypes

    Which I guess means around 250$ which is really the limit for something that is more underpowered than the current netbooks.

    The Acer base Linux model was around 289$ when my sister in law bought hers in early Dec (Im not going to count the 250$ I saw during Christmas) and I have no doubt that when Acer comes out with their next model that the current One will be around 250$ so thats the price they have to beat in my mind. 299$ will be too expensive.

    • Xavier

      January 9, 2009 at 10:33 am

      This thing is in a different class than the EeePC, Mini 9, etc. It is purely a web device and I wouldn’t even think of doing some of the cpu-intensive things you mentioned.

      This is a really slick device for its price point and the two keys are thinness and 8 hour battery life. Intel Atom processors enable netbooks to do more, but ARM processors allow users to do Web/email for a lot longer.

      • Matt

        January 27, 2009 at 2:34 pm

        a 1GHz Cortex A8 should absolutely scream at doing those productivity applications up against the processors he mentioned.

        Intel’s Atom processor at 1.6GHz – yeah it’s a nice chip, but it really isn’t up to the speed of any EQUIVALENT 1.6Ghz processor from Intel (for example the Pentium M 750 or a “Core Solo” Celeron at the same clock speed) but it is lower power.

        I really do not think there will be much of a contest considering the performance of the NEON SIMD engine, the video acceleration the built-in GPU provides (which is above and beyond Intel GMA) and even considering what you might consider a “low” clock speed.

        • dup

          February 3, 2009 at 9:29 am

          check openpandora.org. They use the same cpu, but clocked just at 600Mhz, while it can run 600-1000Mhz. Their latest video shows it running gimp, firefox and xmms easily at the same time. And it’s not even using yet hardware acceleration!!! If you check the HW accel. and especially the optimized codecs from ARM (see their website) you can easily outrun the fastest single core Atom!! While consuming less than 1/10 of the energy the Atom does…

  2. Lyle Howard Seave

    January 8, 2009 at 7:00 am

    Hey there,

    Followed the link here from Liliputing.com….

    I am curious as to the ‘feel’ of the computer…does it feel sluggish running Firefox w/ a half dozen extensions compared to a EEE, Acer or Dell?

    How about OO?

    Our Dell has been used to record and edit podcasts with Audacity and work on some logos/graphics with GIMP so I have yet to find them underpowered (I had a 10 year old T21 running Puppy Linux before so it practically felt like Im running dual core) but let’s face it, 98% of the time its, OO, FF3, Amarok and VLC that we use on our netbook.

    If we can do those things just as well, I have no problems w/ ARM processor.

    Is an ARM processor stronger than the P3-800 my T21 had? Because Ive run various light Linux distros like Puppy and DSL on P3′s and P2′s that we saved from the scrap and then gave away and they were very usable for the general surfing, emailing, IM, etc..

    Ubuntu is the ‘in’ marketing thing but it is a resource hog and would be the last thing I would use on such a low powered netbook.

    Oh yeah, can the ARM run Skype?

    > told the netbooks would be priced at $199 and >$299 I expected to find flimsy plastic prototypes

    Which I guess means around 250$ which is really the limit for something that is more underpowered than the current netbooks.

    The Acer base Linux model was around 289$ when my sister in law bought hers in early Dec (Im not going to count the 250$ I saw during Christmas) and I have no doubt that when Acer comes out with their next model that the current One will be around 250$ so thats the price they have to beat in my mind. 299$ will be too expensive.

    • Xavier

      January 9, 2009 at 2:33 am

      This thing is in a different class than the EeePC, Mini 9, etc. It is purely a web device and I wouldn’t even think of doing some of the cpu-intensive things you mentioned.

      This is a really slick device for its price point and the two keys are thinness and 8 hour battery life. Intel Atom processors enable netbooks to do more, but ARM processors allow users to do Web/email for a lot longer.

      • Matt

        January 27, 2009 at 6:34 am

        a 1GHz Cortex A8 should absolutely scream at doing those productivity applications up against the processors he mentioned.

        Intel’s Atom processor at 1.6GHz – yeah it’s a nice chip, but it really isn’t up to the speed of any EQUIVALENT 1.6Ghz processor from Intel (for example the Pentium M 750 or a “Core Solo” Celeron at the same clock speed) but it is lower power.

        I really do not think there will be much of a contest considering the performance of the NEON SIMD engine, the video acceleration the built-in GPU provides (which is above and beyond Intel GMA) and even considering what you might consider a “low” clock speed.

        • dup

          February 3, 2009 at 1:29 am

          check openpandora.org. They use the same cpu, but clocked just at 600Mhz, while it can run 600-1000Mhz. Their latest video shows it running gimp, firefox and xmms easily at the same time. And it’s not even using yet hardware acceleration!!! If you check the HW accel. and especially the optimized codecs from ARM (see their website) you can easily outrun the fastest single core Atom!! While consuming less than 1/10 of the energy the Atom does…

  3. PJ Brunet

    January 8, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    For clarification, this has no fans? I watched the vids, read the post, I see no mention of the storage. I hope there are no moving parts and it’s silent, that would be nice. Old spinning drives, those days are over.

    My only other comment, unfortunately you made some deal with Adobe, I wouldn’t get too cozy with them. I think you would sell more netbooks with Flashblock preloaded, forget about Flash performance, seriously.

    • Xavier

      January 9, 2009 at 10:34 am

      Right, no fans. No moving parts at all since it’s got flash/SSD.

      • dup

        February 3, 2009 at 9:32 am

        and because the ARM cpu uses 0.3W at full speed :) you do not even need any kind of cooling! The ARM uses >4W and needs at least a passive cooler.

  4. PJ Brunet

    January 8, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    For clarification, this has no fans? I watched the vids, read the post, I see no mention of the storage. I hope there are no moving parts and it’s silent, that would be nice. Old spinning drives, those days are over.

    My only other comment, unfortunately you made some deal with Adobe, I wouldn’t get too cozy with them. I think you would sell more netbooks with Flashblock preloaded, forget about Flash performance, seriously.

    • Xavier

      January 9, 2009 at 2:34 am

      Right, no fans. No moving parts at all since it’s got flash/SSD.

      • dup

        February 3, 2009 at 1:32 am

        and because the ARM cpu uses 0.3W at full speed :) you do not even need any kind of cooling! The ARM uses >4W and needs at least a passive cooler.

  5. PJ

    January 8, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    PS: If you want more feedback, I’m local in Austin. And FYI for the webmaster, your “nofollow” function is buggy.

    • Xavier

      January 9, 2009 at 10:29 am

      Thanks PJ- just upgraded to threaded comments and something’s indeed weird. Will fix it.

  6. PJ

    January 8, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    PS: If you want more feedback, I’m local in Austin. And FYI for the webmaster, your “nofollow” function is buggy.

    • Xavier

      January 9, 2009 at 2:29 am

      Thanks PJ- just upgraded to threaded comments and something’s indeed weird. Will fix it.

  7. Sam

    January 9, 2009 at 1:15 am

    Some one needs to tell them to try Android and touch screen on this.

    That could prove to be a killer product & marketing move.

  8. Sam

    January 8, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Some one needs to tell them to try Android and touch screen on this.

    That could prove to be a killer product & marketing move.

  9. Freescale

    January 14, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Do they have discounts for Freescale staff? =)

  10. Freescale

    January 14, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Do they have discounts for Freescale staff? =)

  11. a dude

    January 15, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    its about dang time. if i was thinking about spending 300 -400 bucks on a net book id just spend the little extra and buy a full laptop. major kudos to this company!

    • Discord

      January 15, 2009 at 4:41 pm

      Amazing – 8 hours of battery life,720p video playback, and so small – all for 200$? That’s crazy!

  12. a dude

    January 15, 2009 at 7:48 am

    its about dang time. if i was thinking about spending 300 -400 bucks on a net book id just spend the little extra and buy a full laptop. major kudos to this company!

    • Discord

      January 15, 2009 at 8:41 am

      Amazing – 8 hours of battery life,720p video playback, and so small – all for 200$? That’s crazy!

  13. susan p

    January 15, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Im looking at getting a small laptop. The netbook sounds better. Im in austin myself so where would I buy one?

    • Xavier

      January 15, 2009 at 9:01 pm

      Susan, this is a concept design and isn’t available yet. Hopefully one of the big netbook OEMs will pick up this design soon.

  14. susan p

    January 15, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Im looking at getting a small laptop. The netbook sounds better. Im in austin myself so where would I buy one?

    • Xavier

      January 15, 2009 at 1:01 pm

      Susan, this is a concept design and isn’t available yet. Hopefully one of the big netbook OEMs will pick up this design soon.

  15. Ullemann

    January 16, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    What is the RAM capacity ??

    Wat is the weight ( with adapter and battery ) ??

    Can I run Windows on it ?? – I would keep the Windows application ( and others ) on a memory stick for my daily work, when I am travelling.

    Also, I couldn’t find your answer to the question, whether Skype and/or similar VOIP applications will work.

    Thanks for a reply to my questions !

    Ullemann

    • Xavier

      January 16, 2009 at 5:26 pm

      I believe it will have 8GB of flash memory, which is about what you’ll find on other Linux-based netbooks. Not sure on the RAM. This machine is not suitable for Windows. The applications that are bundled with this netbook will depend on which vendor actually sells it.

    • noone

      February 2, 2009 at 11:58 am

      Its an ARM Machine and cannot run Windows … and you cant compare the 600MHz ARM speed with 600 MHz x86 processors .. its the megahetz myth … this netbook would be great!

    • hal68k

      October 11, 2009 at 7:33 am

      you could run windows ce on it (whyyyyy?) but it would be stupid.

  16. Ullemann

    January 16, 2009 at 5:23 am

    What is the RAM capacity ??

    Wat is the weight ( with adapter and battery ) ??

    Can I run Windows on it ?? – I would keep the Windows application ( and others ) on a memory stick for my daily work, when I am travelling.

    Also, I couldn’t find your answer to the question, whether Skype and/or similar VOIP applications will work.

    Thanks for a reply to my questions !

    Ullemann

    • Xavier

      January 16, 2009 at 9:26 am

      I believe it will have 8GB of flash memory, which is about what you’ll find on other Linux-based netbooks. Not sure on the RAM. This machine is not suitable for Windows. The applications that are bundled with this netbook will depend on which vendor actually sells it.

    • noone

      February 2, 2009 at 3:58 am

      Its an ARM Machine and cannot run Windows … and you cant compare the 600MHz ARM speed with 600 MHz x86 processors .. its the megahetz myth … this netbook would be great!

    • hal68k

      October 11, 2009 at 12:33 am

      you could run windows ce on it (whyyyyy?) but it would be stupid.

  17. Ullemann

    January 16, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Sorry – I messed up RAM with “memory”:

    What is the capacity of the flash memory ??

    Thanks

  18. Ullemann

    January 16, 2009 at 6:08 am

    Sorry – I messed up RAM with “memory”:

    What is the capacity of the flash memory ??

    Thanks

  19. AC

    January 21, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Can it play movies with VLC? The i.MX515 is supposed to have pretty good video capabilities, but if I can’t watch mp4 movies, I’m not going to buy one.

  20. AC

    January 21, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Can it play movies with VLC? The i.MX515 is supposed to have pretty good video capabilities, but if I can’t watch mp4 movies, I’m not going to buy one.

  21. Samsung NC10 Netbook

    January 28, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Will it be available on Amazon?

    • Joey

      May 16, 2009 at 7:02 am

      What i’d like to know; is would the device be able to freely function, and do efficiently; whilst running say xmms(for any audio format), browser, and social multi Instant Mess, all at the same time? I use a n810(arm platform as well) to do all this and it eats memory fast, and max’ out the processor(though its caped at 400mhz)but it also uses a lightweight OS, if this notebook uses Ubuntu, i fear its not compariable.

      Also what major vendors; if anyone is aware; Would stock these so i can get my hands on it quickly?

  22. Samsung NC10 Netbook

    January 28, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Will it be available on Amazon?

    • Joey

      May 16, 2009 at 12:02 am

      What i’d like to know; is would the device be able to freely function, and do efficiently; whilst running say xmms(for any audio format), browser, and social multi Instant Mess, all at the same time? I use a n810(arm platform as well) to do all this and it eats memory fast, and max’ out the processor(though its caped at 400mhz)but it also uses a lightweight OS, if this notebook uses Ubuntu, i fear its not compariable.

      Also what major vendors; if anyone is aware; Would stock these so i can get my hands on it quickly?

  23. Alila

    May 21, 2009 at 2:11 am

    Does it have a web cam or mic built in? and does it google,myspace,facebook and msn well? or is it not so compatible with stuff like facebook?

    Oh and can u play movies on it or edit videos?

    • DDevine

      November 16, 2009 at 5:07 am

      of course it will do nearly everything you said because nearly all of that is web based! Even though it runs an ARM processor it will work perfectly with all web applications (and will do flash to some extent, there isn’t 100% support but should do YouTube) and will definitely be able to do MSN messenger.

      You will definitely be able to play movies, however video editing software for the ARM architecture I am very unsure about.

      You cannot however run Windows applications. Windows applications are for the X86 (Intel) architecture, and Windows CE (ARM compatible) is absolutely useless.

  24. Alila

    May 20, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Does it have a web cam or mic built in? and does it google,myspace,facebook and msn well? or is it not so compatible with stuff like facebook?

    Oh and can u play movies on it or edit videos?

    • DDevine

      November 15, 2009 at 10:07 pm

      of course it will do nearly everything you said because nearly all of that is web based! Even though it runs an ARM processor it will work perfectly with all web applications (and will do flash to some extent, there isn’t 100% support but should do YouTube) and will definitely be able to do MSN messenger.

      You will definitely be able to play movies, however video editing software for the ARM architecture I am very unsure about.

      You cannot however run Windows applications. Windows applications are for the X86 (Intel) architecture, and Windows CE (ARM compatible) is absolutely useless.

  25. Xavier

    May 21, 2009 at 4:44 am

    Alila, the prototypes I saw can play movies. Don’t recall if they had mics built in, but I’m sure final production units will.

  26. Panasonic tc-p54v10 review

    May 10, 2010 at 9:19 am

    It is now possible to find even cheaper netbooks around $100 price ! It shows how competitive became netbook market.

  27. 3d design

    August 16, 2011 at 12:35 am

    you said because nearly all of that is web based! Even though it runs an ARM processor it will work perfectly with all web applications
    thank

  28. watpads

    August 19, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Nowadays, the technology has no limits..

  29. Xavier

    May 20, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Alila, the prototypes I saw can play movies. Don’t recall if they had mics built in, but I’m sure final production units will.

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