Freescale Semiconductor has entered the rapidly growing netbook market with the launch of its i.MX515 processor based on ARM's Cortex-A8 technology.
The firm is aiming the new chip and associated reference design at the budget end of the market. The CPU is designed for use in netbooks with 8.9in displays, which can deliver eight hours of battery life and retail for below $200 (£137).
The design is optimised for use with the Ubuntu Linux operating system, and offers a new power management system from Freescale, Adobe's Flash Lite software and the SGTL5000 ultra low-power audio codec.
"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.
The design will allow OEMs to build devices that feature "cell phone-like battery life at extremely aggressive price points", according to Su.
Analyst firm ABI Research predicts that around 140 million netbooks will be sold in 2013, up from 15 million in 2008. The netbook market has boomed over the past year as new versions became increasingly powerful. But the price tags crept up as well.
"As was evident in the 2008 holiday season, the netbook market has exploded due to consumer demand for affordable and compact devices that allow users to conduct routine tasks like social networking or shopping on the web," said Philip Solis, principal analyst at ABI Research.
"The netbook market is still in its infancy, and represents a huge market opportunity for companies like Freescale. As advanced platforms for netbooks become increasingly available, price points will drop and the market will expand."
The new 65nm i.MX515 CPU will be able to scale from 600MHz to 1GHz, and will offer advanced power management features such as a hardware-based video acceleration block, thereby providing extended battery life and cutting out the need for fans or heat sinks.
Freescale is currently sampling the i.MX515 processor to tier-one netbook customers, with volume production expected in the second quarter of 2009.
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