Freescale unveils smartbook concepts

June 8, 2009 // 2:10 p.m.

Tags: #arm #concept-design #freescale #freescale-semiconductor #imx515 #mid #mobile-internet-device #netbook #smartbook #smartphone

Freescale Semiconductor – one of the companies currently trying to get the RISC-based ARM processor into the netbook market – has released some concept designs for products it describes as “smartbooks.”

As reported by SlashGear, the designs – which are all in the pre-prototype “artistic render” stage – are the work of industrial design outfit the Savannah College of Art and Design. While some of the designs – such as the modular netbook – are riffing on a fairly standard theme, many of the designs represent something quite new into the emerging market of smartbooks: devices which bridge the gap between smartphones and netbooks.

First up is an oversized Mobile Internet Device – pictured – which features an interesting take on the fold-out keyboard. Clearly not designed for major text entry on the go, it remains to be seen whether the strange ear-like configuration would offer anything over and above the more traditional hardware keyboard which slides out of the base of the unit.

The company has also put together a leather-clad clamshell design for the fashion conscious, along with a rather bizarre tablet-stroke-tupperware-box design with a vertical screen which, to be quite honest, looks more cumbersome than anything.

Perhaps the most interesting – and potentially the most useful – is a smartbook design which folds out to reveal a removable wireless keyboard and mouse, allowing the screen portion of the unit to be propped up and operated as if it were a desktop computer.

Common to all the designs is the ARM-based processor – most likely to be the Freescale i.MX515 – and a battery which should last the entire working day. Being based on ARM, a mainstream Windows operating system is pretty much precluded – but Linux distributions include Ubuntu and Android already work perfectly on this architecture, as do many smartphone operating systems such as the Symbian series.

Sadly, Freescale Semiconductor – being a chip manufacturer – has no real intention of carrying any of these designs to market; instead, the company's consumer segment marketing director Glen Burchers described the initiative as providing “valuable insight into how end-users prefer to interact with smartbooks, and this knowledge will be fed back into our chip design processes, ultimately resulting in future i.MX processors that enable compelling consumer experiences and entirely new classes of consumer devices.” Whether the company would be open to a partnership with an OEM which could bring the best of the devices to market is unknown.

Is there anything in Freescale and SCAD's plans that piques your interest, or is the entire smartbook sector a non-starter in your eyes? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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