Freescale to launch netbook CPU

January 6, 2009 // 2:51 p.m.

Tags: #arm #atom #cisc #cortex #cortex-a8 #cpu #energy-efficient #freescale #green #imx515 #intel #netbook #risc #x86

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.

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