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Freescale Unveils Design For $199 Tablet 173

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the replacement-for-crayons dept.
theodp writes "Freescale Semiconductor has designs on new smartbook tablet computers, and to prove it, it's rolling out a second-generation reference design at the Consumer Electronics Show. For under $200, Freescale envisions an instant-on device with persistent connectivity and all-day battery life with the following additional features: 7" (1024 x 600) touch screen, Freescale i.MX515 processor (based on ARM Cortex-A8 core), 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, 3G modem (optional), 512 MB DDR2 memory, 4GB to 64GB internal storage, removable micro SD, 3 Mpixel camera (video up to VGA 30fps), 3-axis accelerometer, ambient light sensor, Adobe Flash support, Android or Linux OS."
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Freescale Unveils Design For $199 Tablet

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  • How freaking big will the battery be? If I leave the radio and wifi on on my Nook it needs a recharge at the end of the day, and that's with little use of the color screen.

  • "Envisions" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonnythan (79727) on Monday January 04, 2010 @02:09PM (#30643566) Homepage

    I envision all of that, too. But I think I'm about as close to releasing that product as Freescale is.

    But my vision also includes tomato bacon pizza, so maybe my local pizzeria is actually the closest.

  • by compass46 (259596) on Monday January 04, 2010 @02:11PM (#30643582)

    I remember reading about this about a year ago. Does anyone actually have one? Similar idea with a bigger screen but a little more expensive.

    http://www.alwaysinnovating.com/touchbook/ [alwaysinnovating.com]

    • I have one. I have fat fingers, so the physical keyboard is still a better choice for general typing. For non-typing GUI work, the touch screen works quite well.

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        I've been looking into this as well as the Pandora http://www.open-pandora.org/. Do you know if the touch book has regular orders shipping yet? Or is it still: pay and wait for the next batch of parts to be ordered, assembled and shipped? If I can can order one and have it en route before the end of the week, I would buy one in a heartbeat.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by compass46 (259596)

        Sweet, I've been mostly looking for a glorified PDF reader and toy to hack around with. The Touchbook looks pretty versatile as something to hack around with.

    • by haruchai (17472)

      Thanks. I stumbled onto this last year and forgot to bookmark it. It's certainly attractive but the SD card only option is
      a downer - why not an SSD? Also, they're being quite coy about the amount of installed RAM - which isn't upgradeable.

      • Considering the amount of space in the case (I've opened it up), an SSD wouldn't really fit so easily, and would increase the price. I popped a 32 GB SDHC card in it for something like $70.

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        Right in the specs it has 256 megs of ram. This isn't a PC, the TI OMAP 3 chip is a fully integrated system on a chip. Its ram, eprom, graphics accelerators and cpu are all cut from a single chip.

  • What about the A9? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by roe-roe (930889) on Monday January 04, 2010 @02:16PM (#30643680) Homepage
    I have been waiting, as patiently as I can, for ARM based netbooks with the A9 chip. The ARM integrators have a window of opportunity to effect the netbook/smartbook market significantly. The current Intel Atom offerings are, IMHO, not very good. The licenced Cortex-A9 chip can compete with the Atom processor on a purely performance basis, and blow the pants off of the atom processor on a performance/power ratio. By delaying, Intel is slowly closing the power and performance gaps with new generation Atom processors. Once Intel gets close enough, the ability for ARM based machines to impact the market will be gone.

    I fully understand that it takes time to bring the A9 to market, and a chip that can't run windows (I'm not including WinCE) has little appeal in the broader market. On the other hand, if integrators are going to put time and money behind new ARM products why use the A8? I long for when I can get my 2ghz dual-core ARM netbook with a 10" screen and all the connectivity I can think of.
    • by Nadaka (224565)

      I see some announcements for Cortex A9 chipsets, but I don't know of any that are in production much less have devices available that use them. However, Cortex A8 devices are fairly mature with numerous commercial devices and hobby kits available. If you have enough time and skill, you could roll your own Cortex A8 netbook with a BeagleBoard, Gumstix or other hobby board and an LCD and battery. Due to the economies of scale it could cost you up to $600 for all the relevant parts, but if you skimp on battery

  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShooterNeo (555040) on Monday January 04, 2010 @02:22PM (#30643770)

    The 'netbooks' are shrinking on the low end to compete with smartphones and growing on the high end to compete with laptops. This is real competition at work : there's going to be a computing device ranging from pocket sized all the way up to a desktop with 30" screens.

    The interesting bit is that all of these computing devices tend to be all-in one type machines that can take pictures and video, make calls, browse the web, play music, play games, GPS navigate, etc. More specialized devices that only play music (ipod) or GPS navigate (tom tom) or display email (blackberry) or let you write down notes (newton) or take pictures (compact digital camera) are rapidly becoming obsolete.

    Every one of these devices, from the smart phone up to the monster desktop, is able to do it all.

    On the bad side, the cell phone companies have a stranglehold on the wireless data these devices all need to function. Not only is there clear collusion and oligopoly pricing, but the companies tend to price things based upon arbitrary metrics rather than actual cost. If there was actual free market competition in the wireless industry, text messages would be almost free and downloading video data would cost a fortune. Yet you can get an unlimited data plan for $40-$70 while texting costs at least $20 for unlimited.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by vlm (69642)

      Every one of these devices, from the smart phone up to the monster desktop, is able to do it all....

      ... very poorly. In fact, just barely well enough to not get class action lawsuits, usually, which is not exactly glowing praise.

      Possibly the lowest res worst quality digital cameras ever made on cellphones, complete with greasy lenses dusty sensors and dim slow sensitivity. Viewing the web thru a screen the size of a postage stamp, even webtv was better. Non-apple music player user interfaces that make you wish for the good old days of the 1997 Diamond Rio, but thankfully the phone battery will die in a

      • Most of the reason for this is that good software costs a LOT more to develop than hardware design. Hence the success of Apple (they put hundreds of millions into their software environment, and they started with a dev team of accomplished programmers who had worked on previous projects for Apple) and the growing success of Google Android. (while the Android isn't as good as the Apple product, it's a darn sight better than the chintzy products before it)
    • by faragon (789704)
      It has started with the Nokia N900 [slashdot.org], targets almost everything (the only "mistake" is using a TV-out instead of a HDMI output).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eil (82413)

      More specialized devices that only play music (ipod) or GPS navigate (tom tom) or display email (blackberry) or let you write down notes (newton) or take pictures (compact digital camera) are rapidly becoming obsolete.

      As they well should. All of the devices you mention are basically the same (architecture-wise) as general-purpose computers, just smaller.

      I just bought myself an iPod Touch for christmas (my first Apple purchase) and have experienced equal parts of both fascination and frustration while using

  • Two points (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday January 04, 2010 @02:22PM (#30643776)
    1) Reference design != product
    2) Cost of $199 is based on Freescale's projected cost of components, meaning actual cost to consumers would be higher (probably closer to the rumored $300 iSlate price)
    However, if you add a tie-in to a decent eBook/mp3/video vendor, this device could have a decent niche market. In fact, it could adopt the cellphone business model and be given away for "free" with a commitment to a monthly subscription fee. Would you pay $20/month for two years for this if it included content?
    • You know, you mentioning that reminded me that in the 90s, some ISPs actually did try to copy the cell phone model and give away an entire computer 'free' along with the price of a monthly subscription. It must not have worked too well because they stopped doing it shortly thereafter. It would be interesting to look at that and see why the 'free'/subscription model worked with cell phones but not with computers.
      • by spinkham (56603)

        No real research here, bu my conjecture is that we're used to freedom on PCs, but when it comes to cellphones, we've never known differently, so we just take what we can get.

    • by citizenr (871508)

      1) Reference design != product 2) Cost of $199 is based on Freescale's projected cost of components, meaning actual cost to consumers would be higher (probably closer to the rumored $300 iSlate price)

      chumby one $119.95
      https://store.chumby.com/ [chumby.com] most of the specs are the same (minus screen of course)

  • By my prediction, that is how long it is going to take for OLPC to take credit for this.

  • ..."Adobe Flash support, Android or Linux OS."

    Isn't Android just a mobile distribution of Linux?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Isn't Android just a mobile distribution of Linux?

      No.

      What is Android?
      Android is a software stack for mobile devices that includes an operating system, middleware and key applications. The Android SDK provides the tools and APIs necessary to begin developing applications on the Android platform using the Java programming language.

      http://developer.android.com/guide/basics/what-is-android.html

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ArhcAngel (247594)

        So...it isn't a distribution of Linux like "Cloud Computing" isn't a fancy term for client/server or thin client computing...Gotcha!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maxume (22995)

      It is based on a mobile distribution of linux, but it is also a java like language and a set of APIs.

      It is probably better to say that it is implemented on top of a linux kernel.

    • Linux is just a Kernel, not an OS. Android is an OS with a Linux kernel.

  • 1024 by 600? Why not 1024 by 768?

    can i install unbuntu/kubuntu on it?

    64 gBit? where? how much?

    Where can I buy one so I can get my trembling fingers on it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by asdf7890 (1518587)

      1024 by 600? Why not 1024 by 768?

      Form factor? Looking at the pictures on the page linked to increasing the screen depth would mean widening the unit (unless you mean you want a higher res but with oblong pixels). Also widescreen format displays are probably cheaper on account of being mass produced for the current netbook market.

      can i install unbuntu/kubuntu on it?

      The summary does say "Android or Linux" so almost certainly yes, hardware support permitting.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lisandro (799651)
      1024x600 is the standard "widescreen" resolution for 10" netbook displays.
    • by mmell (832646)
      This is a reference design, not a finished product. Similar to vaporware - think of it as "smokeware" :^)

      4-64GB RAM (that's GigaBYTEs, not GigaBITs). Not a server, so I'm not sure I see why you'd want more than 4GB RAM - but I'll admit that 640K isn't enough for everyone, so I'm sure the price differential will be based on memory costs.

      There's an Ubunto/ARM distro - IF (as I've commented elsewhere) they provide access to the firmware I'm sure a well-experienced UNIX engineer should be able to install th

      • by BobMcD (601576)

        The last ARM device I used had a slider between RAM for storage and RAM for performance. I'd assume the same thing going on here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by StreetStealth (980200)

      1024 by 600? Why not 1024 by 768?

      WSVGA. The width of XGA (minimum native for most web sites) in a smaller package.

    • Not a very standard resolution. I think a Tablet with Native 1080p or at least Native 720p resolution would be a great place to start.

  • Fuck Tablets (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sexconker (1179573) on Monday January 04, 2010 @02:38PM (#30643992)

    OMG GOOGLE TABLET OMG APPLE TABLET OMG THE OLPC OF TABLETS.
    Shut the fuck up. If your company missed the "netbook" boat, then too bad. If you're not Amazon, you didn't make the Kindle - too bad.

    This industry has gone from innovation to theft to bandwagon jumping to bandwagon hyping to hyping of planned bandwagon hyping.

    History has proven time and time again that the market for tablets is very small. I don't give a shit how much hot air you blow into the media's ass, you're not going to make a bigger market for tablets because people don't like tablets.

    As for this proposed tablet? It's sheer feature / price point marketing. The PHBs called a meeting with marketing and wrote some features on the board, then they came up with a price. And they're only doing it because of the incessant, unfounded rumors that tablets are going to be the next big market.

    • by ZERO1ZERO (948669)
      This industry has gone from innovation to theft to bandwagon jumping to bandwagon hyping to hyping of planned bandwagon hyping.

      I for one, welcome our bandwagon jumping hyping hyping overlords.

    • Er, I dunno.

      I think tablets make for great remote controls and under $200 they start to get reasonable: one remote to control them all, with a web interface on each device.

      I suppose a smart phone could do that as well, but sometimes the extra display real estate is handy: movie previews from the cable company's On Demand service should be streamable to the remote/tablet so as to not interfere with the program already displayed, if desired.

      Accessing recipes in the kitchen, or an "in a pinch" browser would be

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gmuslera (3436)
      Remember where mp3 players were geek-only gadgets? or touchscreens or cheap/small notebooks something without future?

      Technology advances, and people preference does too. Maybe 5 years ago tablets had no big appeal, culture wasnt built on consumers, then most smartphones started to have a touchscreen, but maybe sometimes you fould feel that the screen is too small and you are start to build a potential market. Foldable keyboards or twistable screens to turn tablets back and forth to something more like noteb
    • by BobMcD (601576)

      History has proven time and time again that the market for tablets that are more expensive than a traditional notebook is very small.

      FTFY

      I'd have to insist that the market for such a device at the stated pricepoint has never been tested. You do remember your economics, right? Supply/Demand, Price?

    • by limaxray (1292094)
      I think you're taking tablets too literally; this has absolutely nothing to do with tablets. The point here is Freescale, a semiconductor manufacturer (and not a system OEM), built a tablet device to show off their SoC designs to OEMs. It is a reference design and nothing more - actual OEM developers use it as a guide to see how to best implement Freescale's products.

      The point here is Freescale is advertising to OEMs "Hey look how easy and cheap it is to develop with our product". This is not aimed at y
    • by Shotgun (30919)

      History has proven that the tablet market was set at a price point that was to high. Traditionally, the typical tablet has been a very overpriced but underpowered laptop.

      Many, MANY uses can be found for these type of tablets, IFF they're cheap enough. That is just now starting to happen.

      The thing that hasn't changed is this industry moving from "hyping of planned bandwagon hyping". That has always been the case, and without some government enforced consent agreements (re IBM) it will continue to be the c

    • by joh (27088)

      And they're only doing it because of the incessant, unfounded rumors that tablets are going to be the next big market.

      It's not tablets. It's tablets with an entire ecosystem for apps and content attached. Hardware with just an OS and a few apps on it is lame nowadays.

      People have learned with the iPhone that having a device *and* a store *and* some cool company caring for all this is the thing. Like it or not. Geeks buy gadgets. People buy packages, because they're sick of naked gadgets and having to fight them and make them into something usable.

      I don't like to say it, but selling cheap gadgets to geeks is becoming economi

    • by shic (309152)

      people don't like tablets.

      Pray, how do you know that? I've never bought a tablet - and wouldn't buy from any to-date because they don't meet my minimum expectations. Don't be fooled, however, I'd love to use a good tablet PC.

      Sticking points for me are :
      * High resolution A4-ish screen (to read PDFs page-at-a-time)
      * Long battery life (at least a day)
      * Wi-fi connectivity and cheap 3G (perhaps via a bluetooth phone) for generic Web access

      When technology meets my demands (and I'm sure it eventually will) I'll buy one - as, I suspect, w

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Monday January 04, 2010 @02:39PM (#30644004) Homepage

    Can the "phonebook" be far behind?

  • Seriously... couldn't they at least have 1280x720 instead of that 1024x600... though I doubt the processor is fast enough to decode regular 720p h264 movies.

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      They mentioned an ARM Cortex A8 Freescale processor, that is probably the i.MX515. Like most other Cortex A8 chips it includes on chip audio/video hardware acceleration for popular formats including at least H.264/MPEG4.

      Similar processors have been proven to handle 720p for hardware supported formats, though I don't really know how this particular one will fair.

    • by Hadlock (143607)

      I think the HP Mini 111 has an upgrade screen with a broadcom video accelerator to push 720p content fullscreen. They exist, but they're about 50% more expensive than your regular, run of the mill HP Mini 110, which is already 300-350 depending on price and features. I think for the most part they're only avalible online. I've never seen one retail.

  • Judging from the bright red color [com.com], I'm guessing you have to turn it upside-down and shake it to reboot. (Apologies to Scott Adams)
  • by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@@@ovi...com> on Monday January 04, 2010 @03:03PM (#30644318) Homepage

    If only the Freescale device had 2 knobs.

    http://www.etch-a-sketch.com/ [etch-a-sketch.com]

    Cheers

    • by msclrhd (1211086)

      It's a touch screen, so it'll be easy to do that in software. In addition to this, it has an accelerometer, so it should be possible to detect when you shake the device. Result: expect an etch-a-sketch application for it any day now.

  • 1280x720 native resolution would have made far more sense, no?

    • My guess is this device would also need more expensive CPU/GPU hardware to decompress 720p video data. Thus, a 720p screen by itself would not be an incredibly marketable feature. I'd sure be upset if I bought something with "720p!!!" that couldn't actually play a 720p video file.

  • Without a built-in, semi-accurate compass, you don't get "augmented reality" applications. Seems like a pretty big oversight.
  • And good luck finding a retail, non-refurbished netbook at the $200 pricepoint these days.

    I paid $300 for mine and I still feel I overpaid by about $100 for its underpoweredness.

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      By this time next year, it might night be a problem. You can already get them for $250 new.

      Then again, $200 starts getting into the range of too under powered to be a replacement for the more expensive bigger version.

      You think that its a matter of not getting the price down, personally from your own statements about yours being underpowered, perhaps you don't actually want them to produce cheaper ones than they currently are.

  • Am I in the minority here, but I'd rather pay $300 for a model with a nice higher res OLED screen and a full GB of RAM rather than a cheap $200 model.

  • The basic problem with devices like this tablet is they are largely disposable.

    The _only_ netbook I have seen that is designed to be repaired is the OLPC. I can get parts for it at reasonable prices from places like http://xoexplosion.com/ [xoexplosion.com] and http://ilovemyxo.com/ [ilovemyxo.com] and the repair manuals for the OLPC are readily available.

    I suspect that we'll see a _much_ longer lifespan for these OLPC devices than any proprietary tablets and what not.

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