Freescale’s ARM Netbooks Gaining Momentum

We were excited to get an early hands-on with netbook prototypes based on Freescale Semiconductor’s iMX515 processor at CES 2009. I caught up with Glen Burhers, who gave me an update on the progress of this new breed of netbooks. The good news is, a lot of progress has been made and sub-$150 netbooks will become a reality later this year.

Freescale is now developing its platform with three operating systems in mind and has added 3G solutions to the mix.

We chatted over Skype and you can view a recording of the conversation below.

Glen is optimistic and believes the market’s wide open for devices that are cheaper than netbooks with Intel Atom processors . The iMX515 will allow for very slim netbooks that will be able to run for eight hours on three-cell batteries. He told me that at least one of his customers is targeting a $149 price point.

Intel Atom-based netbooks are continuing to drop in price and may beat Freescale to the sub $150 finish line if they don’t hurry. Just this week Dell began selling the Mini 9 for just $199. I predict at least one OEM will sell a netbook with Freescale’s iMX515 this holiday season.

Here’s the full press release from 2009 Mobile World Congress

Freescale expands its netbook ecosystem

Collaboration with top operating system and wireless component providers enables 3G connectivity and additional OS choices

BARCELONA, Spain (2009 Mobile World Congress) Feb. 16, 2009 Freescale Semiconductor has collaborated with an impressive lineup of companies to enable 3G connectivity and additional operating system options for netbooks based on its new i.MX515 processor. For OEMs, the expanded ecosystem means faster time to market, greater differentiation and more compelling end devices.

Freescale entered the netbook market in January 2009 with the introduction of the i.MX515 processor and a comprehensive netbook reference design. The solution is designed to enable consumer products that deliver gigahertz performance, eye-popping graphics and eight hours of battery life between charges at extremely aggressive price points.

Developed jointly with Pegatron, the reference design includes Canonical’s Ubuntu® operating system based on Linux® technology. Freescale now has expanded its netbook ecosystem, adding support for additional operating systems from Android Open Source Project, Phoenix Technologies and Xandros, as well as 3G connectivity capabilities via collaboration with Wavecom and Option. Freescale plans to enable 3G connectivity by providing hardware and software support for data modules optimized for the i.MX515 applications processor.

Demand from third parties to partner with Freescale in the growing netbook market has been tremendous,” said Glen Burchers, marketing director for Freescale’s Consumer Segment. Freescale is taking dead aim at the netbook space by assembling an outstanding portfolio of technologies and partners. As a result, we expect that a wide range of netbook models based on Freescale technology will be available for consumers in the second half of this year.”

Freescale’s expanded netbook ecosystem now includes:

The Android platform: a comprehensive, open software stack that includes everything a manufacturer or operator needs to build a compelling mobile device

Phoenix HyperSpaceâ„¢: an easy-to-use, instant-on operating environment that enables extended battery life and smart network connectivity

Xandros® customized Linux solutions: new, simple and compelling user experiences with integrated applications and an online digital marketplace, all designed to reduce time to market and costs for OEMs and carriers

Wireless connectivity capabilities from Option, a leader in wireless broadband technology used by telecom operators and OEMs worldwide

Wireless connectivity capabilities from Wavecom, a leading provider of embedded wireless technology for machine-to-machine communication


Freescale’s netbook reference design is available now. The company currently is sampling the i.MX515 processor 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. Support for 3G connectivity, as well as for the Android, Phoenix Technologies and Xandros operating systems, is expected to coincide with volume production of the i.MX515.

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 around the world.

Supporting comments from Freescale partners follow:

The buildout of Freescale’s netbook ecosystem demonstrates the broad support that processors based on ARM Cortex-A8 technology offers,” said Bob Morris, director of Mobile Computing for ARM. Freescale’s i.MX515 processor offers the performance, low-power operation and third-party support required for success in the fast-expanding netbook market.”

Exciting developments such as Freescale’s i.MX515 processor are beneficial to the netbook sector as a whole,” said Patrick Hofkens, vice president of Strategic Alliances at Option. 3G connectivity will come to be regarded as a standard netbook feature. The i.MX515 processor therefore extends the market opportunity for Option’s versatile embedded 3G connectivity solutions as well as its integration and certification services.”

Freescale’s outstanding netbook solution positions Freescale and its i.MX515 processor as early leaders in the fast-growing netbook market,” said Jeremy Shu, associate vice president for Pegatron. Featuring advanced silicon from Freescale and smart, sophisticated design from Pegatron, the Freescale netbook solution sets new standards for performance, style and price for next-generation netbooks.”

Freescale’s i.MX515 processor and the Phoenix HyperSpace OS work together to deliver exceptional performance and value to netbook OEMs and consumers,” said Surendra Arora, vice president of Business Development at Phoenix Technologies. The i.MX515 is an ideal netbook platform for showcasing HyperSpace’s all-day computing capabilities, smart network connectivity and ease-of-use.”

“We are extremely pleased at the opportunity to enable 3G HSPA connectivity on Freescale’s i.MX515 platform,” said Philippe Guillemette, chief technology officer for Wavecom. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with Freescale to achieve our shared goal of reliable, low-total-cost connectivity for all classes of machines.”

Through the Freescale i.MX515 platform, we can bring a rich user experience and the full power of desktop computing to mobile devices with fast boot, long battery life and always-on 3G networking,” said Ming Poon, acting chief operating officer and senior vice president of Software Development for Xandros.