We’ve argued for some time that one of the broad appeals of a netbook is the low price for what you can do with such a device. Most netbooks range in the $300 to $500 area and the vast majority of these capable little notebooks are powered by Intel’s Atom. Freescale figures that their i.MX515 ARM processor can also meet most computing needs, but at a lower cost. The company plans to power a $199 netbook by the end of 2009 and will be showing just such a device made by Pegatron at CES this week.
The chip runs at a more modest 1GHz clock cycle as compared to Intel’s Atom which generally runs at 1.6GHz on most netbooks. But netbooks aren’t all about processing power; they offer the ability to compute while mobile at a low price for several hours. That brings up a point I made last month when musing of an Android netbook running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU: the ARM chips might sacrifice some processing horsepower, but they can offer a longer run-time on a single charge due to lower power consumption over the Atom. Freescale says eight hours is to be expected.
I suspect this is the first of several ARM-based netbook product announcements we’ll see this week because the smaller ARM players can seriously compete with Intel on this front. Freescale doesn’t mention what operating system we’ll see on the demonstration device. It certainly won’t be Windows as that would require x86 support. Any guesses as to what OS we’ll see?