SAN JOSE, Calif. – Texas Instruments slashed the cost of tablets for a broad range of embedded markets with a reference design that has a bill of materials of just $70. TI’s Electronic Tablet (eTab) could cost halve the price of an Apple iPad Mini or Kindle Fire and is aimed at a laundry list of vertical markets from hospitals to retailers.
The eTab is based on TI’s Sitara AM335x SoC, a single core ARM Cortex-A8 running at up to 720 MHz that costs as little as $5 in volume. The seven-inch tablet also includes a number of TI analog chips and a TI Wi-Fi/Bluetooth combo device, in total about $13 in TI parts.
“It’s a non-traditional tablet that could be used as anything from a home automation solution to a replacement for a printed menu in a restaurant,” said Troy Coleman, a marketing director at TI.
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The Sitara SoC includes a touch screen controller, graphics engine, Ethernet MAC and industrial comms subsystem with support for standards such as Profibus. The system runs Android 4.0 and Linux.
TI commissioned AllGo Embedded Systems, a design services company based in India, to build the reference design (below). “Its 80 percent of the way there” for OEMs who want to add their own custom features and software, said Coleman.
The eTab “allows developers in industrial markets to quickly customize and differentiate their tablets with minimal risk,” said K. Srinivasan, chief executive of AllGo Systems in a press statement.
There is a definite need for OEM, function specific tablets. TI appears to see this need and can provide longevity of this product with its low cost, high performance Sitara line. That's important for an OEM, compared to using an off-the-shelf, latest and greatest. In addition providing a Linux tablet fits well with OEM, custom design. This will also leverage other other alternatives to application design, C++, Qt, etc, outside of Android and iOS.
The Shanzhai mentality is "cheap" and performance cost ratio. They just focus on some performance parameter and even presenting some fake numbers. There are still many link claiming A10 running @ 1.5Ghz, which actually run at less than 1GHz.
They don't really care about user experience and reliability.
I think eTAB's advantage comes with the customization, design support and quality. eTAB solution offers customer the opportunity to customize their solution for specific market needs and system requirements; design also comes with hardware/ software design files including schematics, layout, source code drivers; also not to mention TI has great reputation in embedded solutions market for decades. It would be ideal for enterprise tablet applications.
Decent quality? maybe not so much... but you are right that you can buy them much cheaper. Sadly, you don't know whether the parts in those shenzen tablets are legit, and where they came from. TI has a certain quality level to adhere to, so for the firm to get down as low as $70 is really pretty impressive.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.