Sharp to launch ultramobile device with Arm chip

The PC-Z1 netbook-like device is based on a Freescale chip and comes with Ubuntu Linux

Sharp Electronics this week introduced a netbook-like mobile device with a 5-inch touch screen that is designed to run Internet-based applications.

The PC-Z1 device is as easy to handle as a mobile phone and provides performance similar to PCs, the company said in a statement.

It is designed for an audience that relies mostly on the Web for computing.

Sharp is positioning the PC-Z1 as a "third mobile tool following in the footsteps of notebook PCs and mobile phones to create a new market," the company said.

The PC-Z1 runs the Ubuntu flavor of the Linux OS, which can start up in as little as three seconds, the company said. Its software includes the Firefox browser to access online applications and Adobe Flash to play YouTube videos.

The device also includes applications for users to create documents and spreadsheets, the company said.

The device has a 68-key keyboard for data input. It weighs about 409 grams (0.9 pounds) and offers a 10-hour battery life.

For Internet access, the device includes built-in IEEE 802.11 b/g wireless networking. It has 512MB of RAM and 4GB of flash storage.

An additional 16GB of storage can be added through a Secure Digital memory card slot. The device can be used as an e-book reader, for which Sharp will provide content like novels and comics.

The PC-Z1 will go on sale in Japan on Sept. 25, but no price was immediately available. Sharp couldn't immediately be reached for comment on worldwide availability.

The device has similar attributes to netbooks, which are low-cost laptops characterized by small keyboards and screens between 7 and 12 inches.

Most netbooks come with Intel-based Atom processors, but Sharp's device comes with Freescale's iMX515 processor, which is based on a reference architecture from chip design company Arm Holdings. The processor is based on Arm's Cortex-A8 core, which can scale in performance up to 1GHz. The chip supports 3D graphics and can play back high-definition video.

Freescale is shipping its chips for devices it calls "smartbooks," which it defines as low-cost laptops designed to do netbook-specific jobs such as accessing social networks and running productivity applications.

This is the first device to hit the market with Freescale's chip, a company spokesman said on Friday.

At least one major PC maker has questioned the viability of smartbooks in the consumer space. Asustek Computer CEO Jerry Shen earlier this week said he saw no "clear market" for the Arm-based smartbooks and that his company had no plans to move forward in the segment.

The company in June demonstrated a smartbook with Google's Android flavor of Linux at the Computex trade show. Asus was a netbook pioneer when it started selling Eee PCs in 2007. That line has sold millions of units since then.

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