Imagination floats sub-$100 MIPS tablet running Firefox OS

It's a reference design to get developers enthused about Firefox tablets running on MIPS

Firefox OS prototype tablet from Imagination Technologies

Firefox OS prototype tablet from Imagination Technologies

With Android and iOS dominating the tablet market, Mozilla's Firefox OS hasn't had much of a look in. It's now getting a bit of help from ARM rival Imagination Technologies, which has ported a version of Firefox to a prototype tablet based on its MIPS chip architecture.

The tablet is a reference design built by China's Ingenic and it's designed to be priced under $100. It can run either Android 4.4, known as KitKat, or an experimental version of the Firefox OS, Imagination said in a blog post.

It's designed to help Imagination and Mozilla target the market for very low cost tablets sold in emerging markets like Brazil and India.

The device has a 9.7-inch screen and a 1024 x 768 pixel display, and it runs on a 1.2GHz dual-core processor from Ingenic, including a PowerVR GPU from Imagination. Imagination designs the graphics chips used in most Apple devices, and it bought MIPS so it could compete in the CPU market as well.

The tablet's strongest attribute is its ability to render 1080p video, which can be streamed to TVs via a mini-HDMI port. It has an H.264/VP8-capable video decoder, for playing 1080p video at 30 frames per second, and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 support.

The reference tablet won't go on sale; it's designed to generate interest among developers in the Firefox OS running on MIPS CPUs, Alexandru Voica, a spokesman for Imagination, said via email. Imagination is giving away 15 of the tablets to developers.

Ingenic's MIPS processors have been used in sub-$100 Android tablets dating back to late 2011.

Imagination posted a video of the tablet being used. The Firefox OS tile-based interface resembles that of Android, but the display appears to drag a bit when scrolling or toggling between screens.

The only other announced tablet using Firefox OS is Foxconn's Infocus New Tab F1, which is not yet shipping. The Firefox OS is also used in low-cost smartphones from companies like ZTE, TCL, Huawei and others.

Mozilla said earlier this year that it plans to put Firefox OS in wearables as well.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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