At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Freescale Semiconductor announced expanded ecosystem support for its ARM-based netbook computers. Freescale managed to ensure 3G connectivity for the forthcoming inexpensive systems by a number of companies and also unveiled an expanded list of operating systems support for its platform.
Freescale's ARM-Based Netbook Platform Gains Industry Support
Broad industry support will help Freescale to drive ARM micro-architecture-based microprocessors into the market of netbooks, where they will compete against Intel Corp.’s x86-compatible Atom processors head-to-head for the first time. For OEMs, the expanded ecosystem means faster time to market, greater differentiation and more compelling end devices.
Developed jointly with Pegatron, the reference design includes Canonical’s Ubuntu operating system based on Linux technology. Freescale now has expanded its netbook ecosystem, adding support for additional operating systems from Android Open Source Project, Phoenix Technologies and Xandros, as well as 3G connectivity capabilities via collaboration with Wavecom and Option. Freescale plans to enable 3G connectivity by providing hardware and software support for data modules optimized for the i.MX515 applications processor.
The broader software support is likely to significantly boost Freescale’s chances for success as Android is very popular among device manufacturers and telecom operators who tailor feature-set of the OSes according to their views, whereas Xandros operating system (which is found on some Asus Eee PC netbooks) should allow pleasant out-of-the-box experience.
Freescale’s netbook reference design is available now. The company currently is sampling the i.MX515 processor to tier one netbook customers. Volume production for the i.MX515 device is planned for Q2 2009 to power netbooks designed for the 2009 holiday shopping season. Support for 3G connectivity, as well as for the Android, Phoenix Technologies and Xandros operating systems, is expected to coincide with volume production of the i.MX515.
Freescale i.MX515 Processor – ARM’s First Step on Netbook Ground
Freescale’s new i.MX515 based on ARM Cortex-A8 micro-architecture provides up to 2100 Dhrystone MIPS and can scale in performance from 600MHz to 1GHz. Actual performance of the CPU is not known and it is unclear whether netbooks powered by the i.MX515 will be faster compared to those powered by Intel Atom processor.
The processor sports integrated memory controller that supports both DDR2 as well as mobile DDR memory. Although the i.MX515 offers support for both memory types, many competing Cortex-A8 platform options available today only offer mobile DDR1, limiting designers’ options to maximize cost savings, according to Freescale.
The i.MX515 also offers both OpenVG and OpenGL graphics cores, thereby enabling 2D and 3D graphics as well as Flash and SVG for enhanced user experiences. Video created for the Adobe Player is one of the leading video formats on the Internet today. Working with Adobe, Freescale plans to enable the Adobe software to run on the processor’s dedicated OpenVG graphics block, thereby extending battery life and enabling netbook web browsing experiences as rich and responsive as those on traditional PCs. Besides, the i.MX515 sports hardware acceleration of 720p high-definition video playback.
The new chip is made using 65nm process technology
A key component of Freescale’s netbook solution is the new MC13982 power management IC. Integrating a variety of discrete functions into a single device, the MC13982 contributes to reduced size and weight of end products while extending their battery life through innovative power management and control features. The device incorporates a battery charging system, four adjustable buck converters for powering the processor core and memory, two boost converters for LCD backlighting, and RGB LED displays along with serial backlighting drivers for display and keypad.