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Netbook makers switch to Arm chips at Computex

Google Android mini laptops also likely

Netbooks made with the processors required to run Google's Android software will be on show at Computex Taipei 2009 this week from at least five or six companies, an executive from Arm Holdings said today.

The company does not expect to take a significant share of the netbook CPU market this year, but growing interest in its processing cores should lead to greater gains in 2010.

Arm expects around 20 percent of netbooks next year to carry ARM central processors inside, said Warren East, CEO of the company, at a news conference in Taipei.

The company makes the most popular smartphone and mobile phone processors in the world. It's position in smartphones prompted Google to design Android to run on ARM processors. Now that companies around the world are looking at using Android in netbooks, they will also use ARM central processors in the devices.

ARM processors and other mobile phone components have been designed for low cost, battery efficient, always-connected mobile devices. Mobile phone users, for example, often expect to be able to charge their handset or smartphone and use it for a few days before plugging in again. Arm and its customers hope to take that same idea to netbooks and perhaps even larger laptop computers.

"We find that consumers are using only a tiny bit of the computing at their disposal," said East. "ARM netbooks today, we believe, can meet the needs of half the netbook consumers out there."

Netbooks with ARM processors will be able to run for nine to 10 hours without needing a recharge, said Mike Inglis, general manager of the processor division at Arm. His time estimate is for normal use, not a device running on low-power settings. The upper range of battery life estimates for some current netbooks, at around 8 hours with a 6-cell battery, assumes users will turn down the screen brightness and put their netbook in low-power mode. But under normal use, such netbooks run for only around six hours before needing a recharge.

Five or six Taiwanese companies will show off netbooks with ARM central processors inside at Computex, Inglis said. These devices will come from companies such as the former contract manufacturing arms of Acer and Asustek, both Wistron and Pegatron, respectively, as well as Foxconn Technology, Inventec, and the world's largest laptop computer maker, Quanta Computer.

While Inglis did not comment on what kind of software the devices will run, he said Linux looks very interesting this year.

"We're very excited about what we see going on, particularly around Android," he said.


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