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TI's eTab targets less glamorous tablet markets

Says it can support vertical sectors like hospitals at half the cost of an iPad mini, with new reference design


Published: 2 November, 2012

READ MORE: Texas Instruments | Reference Design | Semiconductor | Tablet

Most tablet talk is about consumer devices, whether premium iPads or budget Nexus 7s. But many of the more optimistic forecasts about the form factor rely on a far wider range of applications, including many embedded and industrial products. This is the target for Texas Instruments' latest reference design, which aims at sectors which are low on glamor but could deliver high volumes in future.

The chip firm says it has slashed the cost of tablets for embedded markets with a reference design that has a bill of materials of just $70. TI's Electronic Tablet (eTab) says it could halve the cost for a long list of vertical markets, such as retailers and hospitals, compared to investing in Kindle Fires or iPad minis.

The eTab is based on TI's Sitara AM335x system-on-chip, based on a single-core ARM Cortex-A8 running at up to 720MHz. This costs as little as $5 in volume and the 7-inch design also includes a number of other TI chips - analog semiconductors and a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth combo device. The total is about $13 in TI parts.

The Sitara SoC also includes a touchscreen controller, graphics engine, Ethernet MAC and industrial communications subsystem with support for standards such as Profibus. The system runs Android 4.0 and Linux.

"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," Troy Coleman, a marketing director at the firm, told EETimes.

TI commissioned Indian design services firm AllGo Embedded Systems to build the reference design, which aims to provide 80% of the features an OEM needs and allow them to bring products to market quickly and with low risk.

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