Freescale aims for tablet computer business

Chipmaker Freescale Semiconductor is aiming to kick-start the tablet computer market with a reference design for a 7in product unveiled ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The design has a touchscreen tablet running on the company's low-power ARM-based processor and with a bill of materials that should let the product be priced at less than $200.

The company said such a device will be able to run either Google Android mobile software or other forms of Linux, and will include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth interfaces.

Although Freescale declined to name any potential vendors for its tablet design, it said devices could hit retail shelves as soon as this summer. The company expects to show prototypes at CES.

Freescale makes chips for a variety of products, including the automotive market. Its application processor is used in Amazon.com Kindle.

Henri Richard, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Freescale, called a smartbook tablet the “missing link” between PCs and smartphones.

“The PC has been stale in terms of its ability to innovate. Smartphones have been making progress...but they have limitations," he said.

Qualcomm and nVidia are also expected to unveil smartbooks based on their chips at CES.

The devices will seek to break Intel’s stranglehold on stripped-down, low-cost PCs. Intel's Atom processor dominates the netbook market.

Speculation has been rife in recent months that Apple are poised to introduce a tablet based computer in 2010.

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