updated 03:50 pm EST, Mon March 1, 2010
Freescale iMX508 will make readers cheap, fast
Freescale used CeBIT to unveil a new processor that it hopes will up-end the e-book reader business. The i.MX508 is the first chip tailor-made for the e-paper devices and cuts out features that aren't needed for the usually grayscale, non-video devices and also builds in its own E Ink controller. Without the unneeded overhead, an e-book reader should cost about $30 less on average and could drop to a total price as low as $150.
Simultaneously, however, it remains based on the ARM Cortex-A8 architecture and should cut the speed of page turns from two seconds down to half a second. Battery life should go up overall, partly because the device will spend less time updating the screen and loading text into memory.
Sample production is starting now for Freescale's clients. The company doesn't know for certain when production devices will arrive but estimates that the first products should be ready in half a year.
The i.MX508 comes about just as Apple is about to enter the e-reader market by producing the $499 iPad, an expensive but all-purpose tablet. Single-task readers like the Kindle and Nook already have a cost advantage but, at an average $260, are close enough that critics expect Apple to steal some purchases, particularly from high-end devices like the Kindle DX.