Freescale Processor Gives E-Readers a Boost
The burgeoning e-reader market, led by the success of
Amazon's Kindle device and products from companies like Sony and Barnes &
Noble, is getting a processing boost from Freescale
Semiconductor, which announced its i.MX508 applications processor, a
system-on-chip (SoC) that integrates advanced ARM Cortex-A8 technology together
with the newest hardware-based display controller from E Ink. With the ARM core
running at 800 MHz, the company said the i.MX508 provides twice the rendering
performance of their previous eReader processors, allowing for quicker page
turns and improved performance overall.
The increased processing capability also
gives manufacturers the additional performance to add features like advanced
touch solutions and the ability to run other value-added applications. The
i.MX508 is also notable for its support of next-generation eReader panels,
which are expected to feature larger dimensions, faster page turns and
significantly better resolution. The processor supports panel resolutions up to
2048 x1536 pixels at 106 hertz by leveraging the ARM Cortex-A8 engine.
By integrating the E Ink display
controller, Freescale said the i.MX508 reduces part counts and lowers costs
associated with electronic paper display control functionality by as much as 50
percent compared to systems without an integrated controller. Freescale's
i.MX508 processor also helps OEMs lower costs by integrating dual USB/PHY and
cost-effective raw NAND memory. The i.MX508 is the latest addition to
Freescale's product roadmap for the smart mobile devices category, which
includes smartbooks, eReaders, smartphones and other mobile consumer products.
"Freescale ended 2009 with a strong
market share lead in applications processors for eReaders, and now we are
cementing our leadership in the eReader space with the introduction of the
i.MX508 device," said Bernd Lienhard, vice president and general manager of the
company's Multimedia Applications Division. "Working closely with E Ink and our
customers, we are able to offer an integrated silicon solution to facilitate
lower eReader retail prices and enable the next phase of growth in the eBook
The i.MX508 applications processor is
expected to be priced at less than $10 (USD) in quantities greater than 250,000
units. Freescale said it plans to begin providing samples to select customers
early in the third quarter of 2010. The SABRE platform for eReaders based on
the i.MX51 is available for purchase now from Freescale. The suggested resale
price is $1,995.
While Amazon's Kindle devices, as well as competing
e-readers, are gaining traction in the marketplace, Apple's eagerly anticipated
touch screen iPad poses a potential threat. In February, Amazon
acquired Touchco, a small startup focusing on multitouch technology, in a deal
that if confirmed would allow the online retailer to leverage new technology
for its line of Kindle e-readers.
Jennifer Colegrove, director of display technologies at DisplaySearch, an industry analyst firm, said the company forecasts that the worldwide eBook/eReader device shipment will triple that of 2009, increasing to over 14 million units in 2010. "Key to this growth will be improving the quality of the digital reading experience while simultaneously making it affordable," she said. "The results coming from the Freescale and E Ink collaboration are very encouraging."