Freescale to tip the netbook scale to Linux

A new netbook processor is in town and it promises to tip the scales to favor the Linux operating system. Jack Wallen gives you the scoop on what Freescale is offering and how they can make it better.

Freescale Semiconductor is planning on releasing a netbook for the 2009 holiday season running on a new processor that would:

  • Have up to eight hours of battery life.
  • Be considerably thinner than current designs.
  • Contain a 1Ghz processor
  • Have embedded 3G connectivity.
  • Be priced under $200.00

You read it correctly. A sub-200.00 dollar netbook that offers more than most current netbooks. The kicker? As of now it looks like the only operating systems that will support the new processor are Android and Linux.

Think about it...Netbooks are the hottest commodity in PC sales right now. If a sub-$200 unit ships that offers eight hours of battery life and has 3G, it will not only crash the netbook party, it will be the LIFE of the netbook party. This netbook promises to be the iPhone of netbooks.

I know there are a lot of readers out there that will say, "But Linux-based netbooks were returned  four times more than Windows-based netbooks." To that I will counter by saying at a price point of less than $200, and with the hardware features Freescale is offering, users won't give a toot what operating system it is running. And if Freescale plays its cards correctly (and has a distribution like gOS to create a special interface the users will enjoy) there will be zero problems.

And I do hope there are members of the Freescale company reading this. If there are, I would like to reiterate what I just said in a different way:

Freescale has a unique opportunity here. There are Linux distributions out there (gOS Gadets, Elive, Elive+Compiz) that could be ported over to the Freescale architecture creating one of the slickest user-interfaces for netbooks available.

I have used a Linux-based Netbook. Sure they do their job but the interface is rather blah (or in terms the teens and tweens will understand, "meh".) Since the introduction of the iPhone, people want pizzazz. The end user does want to have fun using their computer and I think this offers the perfect opportunity to create a fun netbook.

Of course that is all merely a side note. The real issue here is that the Freescale processor (based on the ARM chip) will not support Windows. And considering the current economic state we are in, price-point is going to be a key factor in the success of this model of netbook. Sub $200.This isn't OLPC aiming for the sub $100 notebook; this is actually doable. It is already possible to purchase a sub $250 netbook (Target carries the Eee PC for $249.00), so dropping that extra $50.00 shouldn't be all that difficult. When that happens, prepare to see Linux-based Netbooks in the hands of many more people. And if Freescale takes my advice and pulls in a unique version of Linux, you'll probably see one of those in my hands.


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website


Add a passive Touch Screen interface so I don't have to use the stupid touch-pad/eraser-point and you would have a hit beyond imagining..


Chips don't sell computers, applications do. Unless Freescale can convince people to recompile 100's of millions of lines of application code for the many thousands of Open Source apps out there, then they will have to raise the cash to do it themselves, and maintain the ports afterwards. And even if this is a variant of the ARM chip and binary compatible with previous versions, recompilation is still absolutely mandatory to squeeze the most out of any new chip design. Then there is the question of proprietary apps and drivers. Expect a high return rate if little Johnny can't view web clips and other forms of internet multimedia the way he expects. I've been through 3 different architecture transitions, and every time it's the same thing. Sales are pants until the application portfolio catches up, and that takes a strong stomach and loads of self belief on the part of management to stick with it and see it through. In this day and age and for such a cheap device with such a small profit margin it would have to sell in vast numbers to make it worth while. Atom has this market in its back pocket now, plus the developer and public mindshare to go with it. So I wish Freescale lots of luck, but don't rate their chances.

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