Yesterday, I received an email from a Freescale representative saying that they would be holding a free day-long "lab" session in Rochester (where I live) next month about the i.MX53 Quick Start Development Board. Topics to be covered include getting both Linux and Android up and running on the board as well as showing how to set up a development environment on a host PC. There will be a few different "labs" (mostly following a script I assume) but everything will be provided and I think they include lunch. All attendees receive a $50 off coupon towards the purchase of an i.MX53 QSB.

I had never heard of the i.MX53 QSB before so I was intrigued.

It turns out, the i.MX53 QSB looks like a pretty cool little board. It's got Freescale's implementation of an ARM Cortex-A8 core running at 1 GHz, 1 GB of DDR3 RAM, USB, Ethernet, VGA (and LVDS) video output, SD card, microSD card, audio, and an expansion port. All for $150. One cool thing you can add to the expansion port is a 800x480 touch screen LCD!

My impression is that Freescale was inspired by the BeagleBoard-xM, although I don't know for sure. The written documentation appears to be a bit more in-depth than the BeagleBoard-xM and comes across as more professional but there are a lot of typos. The price is the same as the BeagleBoard-xM (without a coupon) and the feature set is very similar, except a few nice extras (expansion port and double the RAM).

I'm very happy to see that Freescale is getting into this market. The $150 price point is cheap enough for hobbyists (like me) but also cheap enough that employers won't balk at an engineer asking to buy one. Both the i.MX53 QSB and BeagleBoard-xM are going to help grow the ARM device ecosystem at tremendous rates.

Will Freescale be able to create a community around the i.MX53 QSB in the same way that the BeagleBoard has?

That's the million dollar question. Just having cool hardware or software isn't enough. Community is probably more important. Solving problems, posting how-tos, sending code up-stream, having an IRC channel and mailing list... Without that, the i.MX53 QSB won't be nearly as successful as the BeagleBoards.

I, for one, welcome our new low cost ARM development boards!



13 April 2011