Freescale, Hearst Jump Into the Tablet Pool

Will they find their own niche or become Apple roadkill?

The tablet device market is as busy as the Android phone market these days, with new contenders entering daily. The latest entrants? Freescale and the Hearst Corporation. Yes, a chip vendor and a publisher.

Freescale on Monday kicked off the new year with a new tablet reference design. Hearst, publisher of 15 daily newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, plus 49 periodicals, including Cosmopolitan, unveiled Skiff, an eReader that displays print exactly as it would be seen when printed and laid out on paper.

Both enter an increasingly crowded market with a looming monster from Cupertino casting the longest shadow of all. The Wall Street Journal now reports that the Apple tablet – these days rumored to be named iSlate – is on track for a March delivery with Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) showcasing the device at an event on January 27, one day later than reported earlier.

But neither product will be a direct competitor to the iWhatever. Freescale, a chip maker, has no plans to go into the tablet business. This prototype is simply a vehicle for its i.MX515 processor, an ARM derivative, for others to build on. It also includes Freescale's MC13892 power management circuit, SGTL5000 audio codec and MMA8450Q 3-axis accelerometer.

The device has 512MB of memory and 4 to 64GB of removable micro SD storage. It's also got a USB port and three megapixel camera.

tablet, apple, freescale

The Freescale tablet prototype

The tablet has a seven-inch screen and is designed to provide instant-on functionality, persistent connectivity and all-day battery life. Having learned its lesson from Apple on the importance of design, Freescale hired the Savannah College of Art and Design's (SCAD) Industrial Design program to create the look and feel of the tablet.

End products based on the design could hit retail shelves as soon as the summer of 2010, according to Freescale at an estimated price of around $200.

"Freescale's new tablet opens the door to an exciting new world of compelling form factors specifically designed and optimized to support common online activities including social media, high-quality audio/video playback and light gaming," said Henri Richard, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Freescale.

The Freescale tablet includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and also features a 3D desktop framework with touch screen/QWERTY keyboard support. A 3G modem and RF4CE protocol options are available.

Hearst's advanced e-paper screen

Hearst, meanwhile, has its own unique entry. The Skiff Reader has what the firm calls "a next generation e-reader that boasts an advanced e-paper screen" that measures 11.5 inches diagonally, larger than the 9.7-inch Kindle DX and larger than the rumors put the iSlate at.

The display utilizes a thin, flexible sheet of stainless-steel foil from LG Display that allows it to come in a very slim form factor without the need for a glass screen. The Skiff is just one-quarter inch thick and bendable, something a glass-screen eReader could never do.

tablet, apple, skiff, freescale

Hearst's Skiff Reader

The screen is a full touch-screen display with a resolution of 1200 x 1600 capable of displaying the print content as it would look printed on paper. This will allow the publication to keep advertising and possibly hot-link back to the advertiser's page, although Hearst did not specifically say it would do that.

Hearst has a partnership with Sprint-Nextel to sell Skiff Readers through their retail outlets. Skiff supports both Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity. Pricing and availability will be announced at a later date.

Despite the odds, analyst Rob Enderle, president of The Enderle Group, thinks both have a chance at a market because neither is competing head-on with Apple. "Apple will come in at a high price point and their product is an all-in-one device, and you know the market for items priced under Apple remains pretty healthy. So they are not at risk from Apple. Their risks would be other devices that go after the same audiences," he told InternetNews.com.

He's particularly bullish on the Skiff. "The newspapers haven't gotten into the whole eBook thing because newspapers on eBooks have sucked. [Skiff is] more important because if it's successful, it could give newspapers much more life than they currently have. It really puts the newspaper back in the ad game. You can target ads, subsidize the cost of the device and content. It could be cool," he said.

Both the Freescale prototype and Skiff will be on display at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) taking place this week in Las Vegas.

Article courtesy of InternetNews.com.




Tags: Apple, tablet, Freescale, eBook reader, hearst


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