Embedded semiconductor manufacturer Freescale Semiconductor announced its plans for entering the tablet market at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with a "tablet reference design" featuring a 7-inch touch screen. The company said the solution is intended to enable a second generation of smartbook products with prices less than $200. In the weeks leading up to CES, the Internet flooded with reports concerning Apple's supposed tablet, which has refocused analysts' (and consumers') attention on tablet devices.
Freescale said the tablet would be demonstrated at CES running both Google's Android and the Linux operating systems. The solution is based on Freescale's i.MX515 processor incorporating ARM Cortex-A8 technology. It also includes the company's MC13892 power management IC, SGTL5000 audio codec and MMA8450Q 3-axis accelerometer. Freescale said it anticipated end products based on the design would hit retail shelves as soon as the summer of 2010. The design is the first platform in Freescale's Smart Application Blueprint for Rapid Engineering (SABRE) series.
"Semiconductor providers looking to differentiate in the nascent tablet market will need to offer solutions-focused system reference designs if they are to succeed with the world's foremost consumer electronics OEMs," said Jeff Orr, senior mobile devices analyst at ABI Research. "There is clearly strong end-user demand for tablet form-factors, and new reference designs look to play a major role in helping OEMs speed tablet smartbook products to market."
The tablet includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity and also features a 3D desktop framework with touch screen/QWERTY keyboard support. The company noted 3G modem and RF4CE protocol options are available and said the modular approach to 3G connectivity allows systems designers select carrier-specific air interfaces appropriate for different regions. Device specifics list the tablet as offering 512 MB of memory, USB 2.0 and USB mini ports, 4-64 GBs of internal storage and a three-megapixel camera with video recording.
"Freescale's new tablet opens the door to an exciting new world of compelling form factors specifically designed and optimized to support common online activities including social media, high-quality audio/video playback and light gaming," said Henri Richard, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Freescale. "We believe the tablet will emerge as a popular form factor for the next generation of smartbooks. By introducing this prototype reference design, Freescale intends to play a vital role in propelling the mainstream adoption of smartbooks."