In parallel with the Intel Developer Forum, just next to Intel’s event, some competitors are showing such nice things as this ARM Cortex A9 processor design and implementation by Chinese manufacturer Nufront, they say that final products with this could be on the market below $250 before Christmas with power consumption below 2W for the whole system. They plan this solution for low cost and low power Netbook and Desktop style products.
This is probably so far the coolest looking ARM Powered laptop to be released broadly on the market. The first ARM Cortex A9 based laptop. Runs an optimized Android OS with custom web browser from Opera Mobile and I am guessing, the full Chrome browser for ARM may be able to run on this eventually as well. This laptop is being released right now for around 299€ or $299 with WiFi and a bit more for the version with built-in 3G modem.
A synchronized cloud based content browsing and streaming system that works across set-top-box, laptops both ARM powered and Intel powered, and on Toshiba’s new Tegra2 based Android laptops and tablets.
Uruguay has already given one laptop to every child between 6-12 years old. Now they want to give laptops to older students too from 12-15 years old. For this, OLPC has installed a keyboard that is more suitable for older kids:
As you can see with the hundreds of videos at my other video-blog http://olpc.tv, OLPC is a huge success wherever it is implemented. The ARM based versions that are coming, hopefully also using the newest version of the Pixel Qi screens, should allow for a significant lowering of the manufacturing prices and a much lower power consumption.
Engadget and a bunch of other blogs have been reporting these last few days about the cool Augen branded Android Smartbook and Tablets that are being released in the US market at affordable $99 and $149 prices by Super Market chain KMart. I just would like to remind my readers that I posted my video review of the Augen Smartbook 6 months ago on January 29th as it’s based on the Hivision PWS700CA and its cool RockChip ARM9 processor that runs Android in this video: http://armdevices.net/2010/01/29/android-laptop-review-hivision-pws700ca/
To let you know my opinion. I think it is fantastic that Augen and KMart are promoting such cheaper Android Laptop and Tablet form factors as alternatives to the much more expensive Apple iPad and Intel Netbooks. Archos has also been selling the similarly priced Archos 7 Home Tablet on the worldwide market which I video reviewed 5 months ago, which is now broadly available in many retail and online stores below $200 for the 8GB version (and the 2GB version originally planned at $149, then $179 but for now they are mostly selling the 8GB version). That Rockchip based Laptop and Tablet platform also being upgraded to 1ghz still ARM9 to support newer Android 2.2 versions.
But as we have heard from Canonical developers and from hearsay and off camera chatter by Google people at the Google Q&A at Computex about Chrome OS on ARM Laptops, although the second generation 45nm ARM Cortex A8 with faster DDR RAM and faster I/O performance can be enough, the coming of ARM Cortex A9 platforms may be preferable to achieve the full desktop web browsing experience that most consumers may require for them to consider the ARM platforms as fully usable alternatives in the Intel/Microsoft dominated Laptop market. And the iPad and the whole bunch of smart phones that are currently spread all over the market, those may kind of set expectations at capacitive and ARM Cortex A8 performance at the minimum. So it will be interesting, capacitive touch screen manufacturers allowing, to see how soon and how cheap those capacitive Android tablet designs at full user interface speeds can reach the market. ARM9 and ARM11 resistive tablets are not bad for a start, they can give the consumers and bloggers a taste of what can be done with Android at retail prices below $200 and even below $100. The ultimate goal should be though that we should have full speed ARM Cortex versions of all these devices in all the stores, with the best capacitive screens for tablets or non-touch screens for Laptops, preferably Pixel Qi screens, and available below $200 without contracts, running free Linux based Android or Ubuntu OSes.
Rockchip may be the new “China Processor”, that ARM Processor coming out of China that can be found in some of the cheap Android Tablets and Laptops. This could be a major part of China’s attempt at providing every component of future low cost computing devices, even the processor. The new version of the Rockchip processor is said to be faster, RK2808 is 600mhz while RK2818 can go to 1ghz. But according to Toms Hardware, this new Rockchip RK2818 might still be ARM926EJ-S ARMv5 based.
In practice, RK2808 reached 1.1 DMIPS per MHz, while a core based on the Cortex A8 is 2 DMIPS per MHz and the recent Cortex A9 is 2.5 per DMIPS MHz. Even at 1 GHz, a Rockchip will be about two times slower than what the Cortex competition offers (at a higher price).
The question might be, how much cheaper are ARM9 based devices? Rockchip might still be only for low-end lower cost devices mostly made by Chinese manufacturers. The good news is this new Rockchip can support Android 2.1 and 2.2 (while RK2808 can only do Android 1.5). It’s got to be thanks to its newer and better DSP graphics accelerator, with screen support at up to 1024×768 which could be great to power cheap ARM Powered laptops and low cost 10″ Android Tablets. Availability may be after September for a bunch of new RK2818 based products or maybe also simply quick upgrades of RK2808 based designs. I wonder if the new 720p video playback on RK2818 may be improved, while RK2808 could only playback H264 MKV 720p at up to 2.5mbit/s.
Wow, the Toshiba AC100 Cloud Companion smartbook is some serious looking ARM Cortex A9 laptop right there, being launched soon! It’s based on Nvidia Tegra 2 1ghz ARM Cortex A9 system on chip, with a nice HDMI output on the side of the device (full 1080p output!), it runs a customized version of Android optimized for the Laptop form factor. It comes with 512MB DDR2 (333 MHz) RAM, 16GB Flash (up to 32GB version available), 2 USB host ports, 10.1″ 1024×600 LED backlit LCD, SDHC card reader, 1.3 megapixel webcam, Bluetooth, WiFi-N and a weight of 870 grams. Toshiba may launch this in Europe in August as a kind of high end thin premium laptop priced 349€ for WiFi-only version and 449€ for the version with built-in 3G HSDPA.
In this video, Jerone Young, Partner Engineer at Canonical explains the status of software optimizations and development to make ARM Powered Laptops and Desktops a reality. He tells about some of the fascinating challenges where Canonical is working together with the their partners at the Linaro group of companies (ARM, Freescale, IBM, Samsung, ST Ericsson, Texas Instruments…) to realize a full desktop experience on ARM Powered devices, including full and fast web browsing and full access to most of the most useful Ubuntu applications.
It’s about hardware acceleration, about standardization of boot process and other aspects of the ARM platforms, this is about focusing development efforts to solve the most important challenges and provide thus open source and free software tools to be used by all ARM Powered Linux based products. With faster memory bus speeds coming up in the next generation of Desktop-centric ARM Processors, such as support for DDR3 RAM speeds, the implementation of multiple cores as in upcoming ARM Cortex A9 processors, the standardization of how to use graphics and video hardware acceleration to speed up user interfaces, applications and features. Those are the challenges that Canonical and its partners are working very hard on and plan to implement in actual products that can start to be sold to the mass market during these coming months.
As you have been able to see in hundreds of videos here on ARMdevices.net, many, many prototypes of ARM Powered laptops are being shown at trade shows. Huge laptop makers like HP, Toshiba, Dell, Lenovo, Quanta, Compal, Inventec, Pegatron, all of those and many more have shown or have announced ARM Powered laptop projects. Yet to actually launch these to a very large market, the ARM Partners are first collaboratively making sure that those devices provide a user experience that is fast enough for most consumers.
Genesi Americas is presenting this awesome looking ARM Cortex A8 based Smartbook design, presented by Genesi who designed the hardware in collaboration with Pegatron of this latest generation of this Freescale Powered Smartbook design. For fun, we are running Microsoft Office through a high resolution version of Citrix viewer on the latest version of Ubuntu 10.4 for ARM processors. This could provide a one click online based software as a service solution. Want to run any X86 application on your ARM Laptop? Just click through the Citrix virtualization stuff and you can have it all running and smoothly. In theory, the apps could be processed by a grid and delivered much faster than on a single x86 processor based device.
Genesi are providing the hardware and software integration solution, in combination with Future Electronics, they can provide the whole solution to carriers, distributors, with the full bill of material, setting up the manufacturing and making the whole thing work and be sold to the market.
Aura, the Genesi Firmware offering, implements a run-time, re-entrant hardware abstraction layer supporting the industry standard IEEE 1275 (OpenFirmware) and UEFI firmware specifications, with significant added functionality.
These additional features provide cost reduction of systems and faster time-to-market of hardware. Genesi provides board bring-up services and firmware for other Power Architecture and ARM hardware suppliers, up to and including a Linux desktop, based on our firmware.
Genesi is an active Open Source supporter, having donated a lot of hardware over the years to Debian, OpenSuSe, Gentoo, Crux and many other Linux distributions.
Genesi are very active in optimizing software specifically for ARM Cortex by porting libraries to the NEON unit in these devices resulting in large speedups.
Canonical is showing the Freescale i.MX51 Pegatron Laptop reference design running the latest version of Ubuntu Netbook Edition optimized for ARM for speed (could they be calling this the Ubuntu Smartbook Edition?). In this video, the representative of Canonical explains some of the things that are being worked on to optimize Linux as a full laptop experience on ARM platforms like the ARM Cortex A8 and the multi-core ARM Cortex A9 that are coming out soon. I will film another video with Canonical to try to get more details on how the upcoming ARM Powered laptops are going to look like and how Linux is being optimized for it.