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Freescale to launch netbook CPU

Freescale to launch netbook CPU

The new i.MX515 chip from Freescale promises a completely solid-state system with 8 hours of battery life - but only under Linux.

The low-power CPU marketplace is set to get hotter, with the first commercial product based around ARM's new Cortex technology due immenently.

According to PC World, Freescale is due to use the Consumer Electronics Show to officially launch the i.MX515 netbook processor – an extremely energy efficient design based around the Cortex-A8 single-core system from UK-based ARM.

Promising clock speeds up to 1GHz and in-built support for 3D rendering and high-definition video decoding, the chips look set to shake up the relatively stagnant netbook market – in which we see manufacturer after manufacturer produce cookie-cutter clones with near-identical specs, all based around Intel's low-power Atom chip.

Freescale's Glen Burchers is hoping that the new chip will be a good fit for the company's future vision of where the netbook is going, stating that “we believe the netbook is a device that is going to be primarily targeted at Internet access, that is a companion device to computers and to smart phones [-] not a replacement for either.

While the chip won't be beating any speed records, its high-efficiency design means it can be cooled entirely passively, removing the last moving part from modern solid-state based netbook devices. When you add in to the mix a charge cycle estimated to hit eight hours from a small three-cell battery – and up to double that for larger batteries – you've got quite an exciting system on your hands.

Sadly, Microsoft is due to be left out in the cold on this one: as the chips are based around the ARM architecture rather than x86, Windows won't run; instead, the only option provided at retail will be Linux. Canonical – the corporate behind popular desktop Linux distribution Ubuntu – is working with ARM to tweak the open-source OS for exactly this destination.

Do you believe that lack of Windows support will spell the demise of the Cortex-based chips, or will the lure of a completely solid-state netbook with eight hours of battery life win people over to the Linux side of life? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

14 Comments

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proxess 6th January 2009, 16:04 Quote
If the price is attractive on these products, then I'm pretty sure they'll hit main stream.
steveo_mcg 6th January 2009, 16:21 Quote
It looks a good idea especially if its cheap with that long battery life. Only problem i can see is you'd have to compile every thing you wanted to use on it out side of the repo's.
Xtrafresh 6th January 2009, 16:54 Quote
no x86 = no mainstream appeal. Nobody will buy it when it is sitting next to a windows-based Atom, unless it is half the price, which i dont believe.
It's a shame, really, but for Linux to be pervasive manufacturers need to ship some hybrid stuff first, or launch full-scale PR-campaigns to get some big corporate clients: people use what they use at work.
bowman 6th January 2009, 17:25 Quote
'Sadly'? Not really..
n3mo 6th January 2009, 18:34 Quote
I for one would love a non x86 netbook, I'd pay for it just for the lack of ability to install Windows.
seveneleven 6th January 2009, 18:56 Quote
And what platform/chipset will it be accompanied by?Surely it won't be pin-compatible with Intel's chip?
Lilliput King 6th January 2009, 19:04 Quote
Maybe no mainstream appeal, but with a 16 hour battery with a 6-cell and no moving parts some people would certainly buy it.

Like, me, for instance.
Cupboard 6th January 2009, 20:23 Quote
I am sure you could have some form of Window CE on it, though why you would want to is beyond me.
Anyways, sounds good to me even if it is rather similar to other things on the market, like the processor behind the Beagle Board (that I still want)
NiHiLiST 6th January 2009, 23:20 Quote
The only vaguely Unix-derived OS that I've found worthwhile using on a laptop (or desktop for that matter) is OS X, Linux still just isn't ready for the mainstream. It's come a long way since I first tried Redhat 5.1 but I still see it as a hobby OS for the desktop.

I swear by Linux for servers and embedded applications, but OS X and Windows still absolutely kill it for mainstream desktop/laptop use and I can't see that changing anytime soon.

Sadly, because of this, I expect tales of this CPU's unexplored potential will be told in years to come when it's long dead :(
LordPyrinc 7th January 2009, 02:45 Quote
The battery life is commendable... if it lives up to its claims. Yet, I agree that the inability to run a Windows OS will not make it mainstream. Longer battery life is very attractive to traveling business people, but what percent of those travelers do not use Windows or other Microsoft applications in their respective companies?
p3n 7th January 2009, 09:29 Quote
Why would it need to run windows? Have you seen windows XP on a 1ghz processor with <1mb of L2 cache? Yeah not so good eh...
Xtrafresh 7th January 2009, 10:26 Quote
it needs to run windows because that is what people use at work. People will use that same thing at home too, because only 1% of the population is interested enough to even give anything else a thought.

Sad and injust as it might be, to the general public a PC without Windows sounds like a car without tires.
kenco_uk 7th January 2009, 13:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by p3n
Why would it need to run windows? Have you seen windows XP on a 1ghz processor with <1mb of L2 cache? Yeah not so good eh...

Ran alright on my P3-933 at the time!
Moriarty 7th January 2009, 14:43 Quote
The netbook market seems the right place for Linux to get it's foot in the door. It loses mass market appeal in more powerful machines due to incompatability with a gamut of software, but for something thats just a browser platform it would be a great choice.
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