Freescale Says ARM Will Power Half the Netbook Market


freescale_logoEarlier this week, Freescale expanded their young netbook ecosystem with more OS and connectivity choices. Their i.MX515 processor is based on the ARM Cortex-8, which they feel can bring an enjoyable portable computing experience for under $200. The chip is sampling now in a reference design, but volume production isn’t slated until the second quarter of the year.

Freescale says they’re currently supporting Ubuntu with their reference design, but the chip is currently capable of more: Android, Xandros Linux and Phoenix Technology’s HyperSpace are all supported as well. Components from Option and Wavecom (s WVCM) round out 3G and other connectivity methods.

Is a $199 or less netbook possible out of all this? I think so, but it will obviously require an OEM to contract with Freescale. All of the upper tier companies in this space have already latched on to the Intel Atom, so it’s a tough sell. Why would a Dell (s DELL), HP (s HPQ), Lenovo, or ASUS even think about offering a cheaper competitor to their existing netbook lines?

Freescale seems undaunted by the x86 netbook market, however. OSnews offers this quote from Glen Burchers, the marketing director for Freescale’s consumer business:

I think for developed countries you’ll see good, better and best. I believe the good and better will be based on ARM. I believe the best will be Atom-based and will still run Windows, because you can do more with it.”

Based on that notion, Freescale believes that half of the netbook market could be ARM powered. Again, a tough sell, although Intel’s Atom seems to be reaching downward into what was traditionally ARM-territory: acceptable performance with long battery life. The challenge to ARM is combating the consumer notion that a computer at any price needs to look and feel familiar: x86 supports the operating systems that folks were raised on. People will give up battery life in order to use the environment and applications they know and love.

What do you think: is there room for the “good, better and best” approach in the growing netbook market? Or is this all a pipe dream and there’s simply no room for two different processor platforms?



PJE and John B. have it right. Give me a cheap tablet-like device for in-house Wifi surfing, email, RSS. Think larger iPod Touch.

John Bailo

All I want is a web reader-writer.

Just enough to blog and read blogs.

And I want it to be cheap enough so I don’t care if I lose it on a bus.


@Nicholas, I agree that as a general purpose netbook, Windows XP (if you can still get it by the end of the year) would be the preference for most people – myself included – which would mean a X86 CPU.

That is not to say that you can’t sell a lot of relatively closed web based devices running on a Linux platform. It would definitely give the malware people something to think about.

A 7″ device with the right software would be ideal for email, light web browsing, ebooks and PMP functions. I feel a 5″ or smaller screen is too compromised for a lot of uses, and starts to compete too much with the iPhones of the world.


A netbook with ARM processors, can’t run windows, you can’t even run windows inside a VM because no vmware, virtual box and so on on ARM.

I really doubt such netbooks will succeed (at least here in europe).


Give me a 7″ 1024×600 slate with one of the new multi-core ARM systems running Ubuntu or something similar and I’d be happy.

Add bluetooth for connections to phones/external keyboards, USB for 3G modems and 2+ SDHC card slots for storage, and obviously WiFi, and keep the price below $250.

Make it plug into a PC as a mass storage device and secondary PC screen and I’d be even happier. Also, given the capabilities of some of the new ARM SOCs an HDMI port would be nice.


I would be very happy to use an ARM based, non-Windows system with one single exception: Games. This is the one single thing keeping me connected to Windows. I’d also like improved 3D support, but that is generally a sub-issue of the games issue.




Until Apple releases iTunes for ARM Freescale is giving out free tickets for a cruise up the river Denile of Reality.

The Vaio P has moved in and the linux Acer AO is looking for a good home here. Heck even its instant on OS appears to be a chunk of the PSP instead of linux. :-)


It’s true that people would give up on battery life to cling onto Windows. I would actually like to see Windows Mobile 6.5+ on these ARM-based netbook. That may give Freescale and ARM a better chance at competing with Intel Atom.

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