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Freescale Promises $199 Touch Screen Tablet

Company claims its 1GHz ARM-based design could turn into retail products by summer

Freescale Semiconductor means to challenge the Intel-based netbook – and apparently exploit any wave created by the widely expected, presumably pricey Apple tablet – with a “second-generation” sub-$200 tablet hybrid it calls a smartbook, sort of a cross between a smartphone and a notebook PC.

The thing comes in two pieces: a 7-inch 0.8-ounce 1024x600 touch screen and a separate, optional keyboard, optional because there’s support for a touch screen keyboard.

The chipmaker showed off its prototype reference platform Monday ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas, where the widget’s supposed to be demonstrated running both Android and Linux.

Qualcomm and Nvidia are also expected to show off so-called smartbooks at CES.

Freescale said its 1GHz ARM-based design could turn into retail products by summer. It did not name any potential OEMs.

Its promising instant-on functionality, persistent connectivity and all-day battery life in a device that’s roughly four times the viewing area of a typical smartphone and a third the size of a typical netbook.

It sees it being used for social media, high-quality audio/video playback and light gaming.

Freescale said the tablet incorporates feedback from end users and is the first design in its Smart Application Blueprint for Rapid Engineering (SABRE) series.

It quotes ABI Research as saying “there is clearly strong end-user demand for tablet form factors,” which is going to come as news to both Intel and Microsoft, both of which tried getting consumers interested in the things before. Maybe Apple and its reportedly sub-$1,000 iSlate or whatever it’s called when it’s unveiled on January 26 will get the ball rolling.

The Freescale tablet includes GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, an optional 3G modem and RF4CE protocol and a 3-megapixel webcam. It should run a browser with Adobe’s Flash Player and multimedia plug-ins, a media center, PDF and image viewers, a mail client, an RSS reader, an office suite, handwriting utilities and widgets for Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Weather SMS.

It’s spec’d to support 512MB of DDR2 memory and 4GB-64GB of internal storage or more with a micro SD card and will have USB 2.0 and USB mini ports, SIM card, speaker and microphone.

There’s no fan or heat sink, practically the only things it doesn’t have for the claimed $199 price.

Freescale can offer OEMs Inventec Appliance Corporation’s expertise in design and manufacturing and Thundersoft’s skills at software integration, customization and optimization. For those going it alone it’s got block diagrams, schematics, lists of materials and a Linux board support package.

It said the reference design should be available for evaluation next month.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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