Rumour: ARM-based netbooks later this year

Rumour: ARM-based netbooks later this year

Netbooks based on Freescale's i.MX515 ARM CPU are rumoured to be scheduled for launch at Computex this year

Starting life as the brain of Acorn’s Archimedes school computers in the late 1980s, the ARM processor architecture has since become a ubiquitous element in a plethora of mobile devices from the iPod through the Nintendo DS to various PDAs. However, while it’s been a long time since the architecture formed the basis of a computer, the word is that some ARM-based netbooks will be launched at the Computex show in Taiwan in June.

DigiTimes claims to have spoken to sources at netbook manufacturers who said that Pegatron Technology plans to produce a netbook based on Freescale's ARM-based i.MX515 CPU, while Wistron reportedly has a netbook based on Qualcomm's ARM-based Snapdragon platform in the works.

As well as this, the site reports that both MSI and Asus have confirmed that they’re “evaluating the possibility of launching Qualcomm CPU-based netbooks.” The site also says that netbooks using Nvidia’s ARM-based Tegra platform will also appear at a later date. Freecom launched its i.MX515 CPU in January, and specifically targeted it at the netbook market with a reference netbook design for OEMs based on Ubuntu Linux.

The news comes soon after the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project said that it was also looking at using an ARM CPU in the next-generation XO-2 OLPC machine. The current OLPC XO-1 machine uses an AMD Geode x86 CPU, but PC World reported that the OLPC team was "almost" committed to moving over to an ARM-based CPU in the XO-2.

However, there are potential barriers when it comes to software support as the OLPC project currently supports dual-boot Windows and Linux systems, as well as Linux-only laptops. According to PC World, the OLPC project’s chairman, Nicholas Negroponte said that "Like many, we are urging Microsoft to make Windows - not Windows Mobile - available on the ARM. This is a complex question for them."

The site also points out that the XO-2 won’t be released for another 18 months, and quotes Negroponte as saying that "a lot can change with regard to Microsoft and ARM" in that time. The reason for the change is reportedly the potential for much lower power consumption when using ARM CPUs. However, even if Microsoft was to code an ARM-compatible version of Windows for netbooks, you would still then have the barrier of getting third-party x86 software working on the new OS.

Could ARM-based netbooks running Linux be a successful business venture, and should Microsoft code an ARM-compatible version of Windows? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.


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bow-wow 16th March 2009, 09:48 Quote
hilbert70 16th March 2009, 10:37 Quote
MS probably wont port Windows to ARM but Linux is already available for the ARM processor. (Happy to see that the ARM will get a computer again, my old Acorn Archimedes was superior to the 80286)
n3mo 16th March 2009, 11:28 Quote
waait, where have I seen this? Oh, here it is, back in the February, on Mobile World Congress :)
They are pretty sexy, as soon as they hit the shelves I'm buying myself a few. Incompatibility with Windows is a huge plus.
x86 is pretty outdated, so any move towards something better is a much needed change, the fact that Microsoft is unable (or just not willing) to make their flagship product future-proof and simply better is holding back the progress long enough. F*ck Windows, I want an architecture that is fast, efficient and not held back by some annoying company that is founded on crappy code and shady market practices, bullying everyone around or licensed to another big, unethical bully.

What is more, the first ARM-based netbook is already available:

And here is the presentation (you HAVE to watch this. If you watched the "Pink Panther" movie you'll see what I'm talking about):
Yemerich 16th March 2009, 11:48 Quote
I really think that if MS wants to be in the frontline of evolution it needs to port windows for arm. Arm is widelly used for switches and routers (cisco) because its robust, so i guess using an ARM processor for a netbook is a totally win.

Anyway, linux prolly the best option for a netbook with an ARm processor.
Evildead666 16th March 2009, 11:55 Quote
the ARM netbook above looks good but still has a proprietary OS.
When it will be able to boot Ubuntu, it will be sweet, but still too big for me.

Windows will wake up when people start seeing and buying netbooks that last days without recharging, that will only use Linux, ubuntu to be exact.
If people start to get used to Ubuntu because they have to, for Audio/video pleasure and communication, Windows will start to lose market share in that sector.
Then people will start to think why don't I use this on my desktop now that i'm used to it, why not use open office...
And then MS will REALLy get up and brick themselves....
perplekks45 16th March 2009, 12:16 Quote
People won't wake up easily, let's face it. *NIX is still miles away from being common amongst the average user base.
Anyways, me as a geek, I'd like to see an ARM netbook performing better than any Intel/AMD based one while still using less power. ;)
regan123 16th March 2009, 14:04 Quote
while it’s been a long time since the architecture formed the basis of a computer- Actually RISC OS based ARM machines have been in production for a long time since the end of Acorn. I still think there are two being made.
The Bodger 16th March 2009, 16:01 Quote
Originally Posted by regan123
while it’s been a long time since the architecture formed the basis of a computer- Actually RISC OS based ARM machines have been in production for a long time since the end of Acorn. I still think there are two being made.

Correct - I still go to the yearly RISC OS show. (RISC OS being the operating system formerly used by the old Acorn computers, for those who don't know)

RISC OS is still being developed, and whilst GUI-wise at least it looks a little outdated compared to modern Linux / Windows distros, still works pretty well - I have a heavily upgraded late Acorn machine still in regular use.

One of the current machines, the A9 is incredibly tiny and power efficient. (Its the little blue box in the photo) (Link) It also already runs a ported Linux distro (don't remember which one tho) When I say power efficient, note that the whole machine typically uses only 3Watts! In a laptop, that would make the battery life phenomenal.

Just for the sake of completeness, the other Native ARM RISC OS machine is here. I know that Linux is actively being ported to this machine too.

Anyway - it's nice to see ARM coming back into the computing world proper - if the new Linux ARM portables are any good, I'll certainly be very interested in getting one :)
Spaceraver 17th March 2009, 16:47 Quote
Holy crap... Have to have one... As long as it has a few external connectors for USB and ability to take 12V power I'm sold.. Couple that with a USB harddrive and USB 5.1 sound.. We have a winner for the fastest way of implementing a Carputer.
notatoad 17th March 2009, 18:07 Quote
i've got my fingers crossed for a no moving parts netbook (no fans, no spinning disks), i'm hoping arm can deliver.

and ARM ubuntu is ready, i saw pics of it running on a nokia internet tablet yesterday.
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