Freescale Semiconductor will be showing off mini-laptops powered by a Freescale ARM Cortex A8-based chip at CES this week. The netbook on display at CES will be built by Pegatron and will likely be based on Freescale’s reference design, which features an i.Mx515 processor. No word on whether any OEMs have adopted the reference design yet, but Freescale estimates that the architecture could be used to create sub-$200 netbooks as early as this year.
The reference design features the .MX515 CPU, Ubuntu Linux, Adobe Flash Lite and Adobe Flash Player for mobile phones and devices. In other words, the system should be capable of running a web browser, some office software, and multimedia content including web-based Flash video.
The CPU can scale between 600MHz and 1GHz and the chipset includes pwoer management features that should help extend battery life.
ARM-based chips cannot run Windows XP or Vista, which means that these and other devices based on the new ARM chipset will likely be limited to running Linux, Windows CE, or other operating systems. But if you’re happy with Firefox, OpenOffice.org, and other open source alternatives to Windows applications, that might not be such a drawback. On the other hand, there’ve been some reports that netbook customers are more likely to return computers running Linux after discovering that the laptops don’t work the way they’re used to. And that could limit the appeal of any ARM-based netbooks released in 2009. On the other hand, a sub-$200 price tag might take the edge off a bit.