Another Challenger Wades into the Netbook Processor Arena

Paul Lilly

There aren't too many companies with the infrastructure or financial backing in place to take on Intel in the desktop processor market, nor can there be much gumption after witnessing the struggles AMD continues to go through as the sole competitor. But in the fast growing netbook sector, all bets are off. VIA's Nano chip has emerged as a viable contender with a promising multi-core future, AMD is expected to unveil a chip for ultraportables at CES, and now yet another company looks to jump in the ring with a low cost processor of its own.

Freescale Semiconductor announced on Monday a new ARM-based chip from its i.MX line the company claims will finally make sub-$200 netbooks a reality.

" We see a huge opportunity in the netbook market as consumers demand more cost-effective and higher performing solutions,” said Lisa Su , senior vice president and general manager of Freescale’s Networking and Multimedia Group. “Our solution for netbooks will enable OEMs to develop compelling products that feature cell phone-like battery life at extremely aggressive price points."

While it's hard to imagine Intel's Atom chip being dethroned, there's plenty of room for competition. According to analyst firm ABI Research, 140 million netbooks will be sold in 2013, up significantly from 8 million in 2008. And even that could prove to be a modest estimate should Freescale manage to drive netbook prices down to sub-$200 levels.

On the hardware side, Freescale's new i.MX515 uses a 65nm manufacturing process technology and can scale in performance from 600MHz to 1GHz. The chip supports both DDR2 and DDR1, as well as offering both OpenGV and OpenGL graphics cores, "thereby enabling 2D and 3D graphics as well as Flash and SVG for enhanced user experiences."

Freescale has already started shipping netbook reference designs to tier one netbook customers, with volume production planned for Q2 2009.

Image Credit: Freescale

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