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Intel Says XScale Brings Handhelds Up To Speed

Intel touts its XScale processor as the next-generation mobile processor, boasting speeds starting at 200MHz at the low end. XScale will enable high-performance applications such as streaming video, speech recognition and games, using one single piece of silicon, the company says.

Current processor speeds do not provide mobile devices with capabilities beyond a basic organizer, which range in speeds from 130MHz for inexpensive devices to 206MHz at the most expensive level, say analysts. The Compaq iPaq Pocket PC devices, for example, cost about $500 and offer 206MHz–proving performance equals price.

XScale also will incorporate packet-switched data, currently being used in Japan’s iMode connections. Packet switching lowers the cost of data and allows more reliable data connections than the circuit-switched connections used in U.S. cellular networks.

Solution providers can anticipate cellular connections built into the XScale-enhanced PDA devices to be marketed to attract vertical professionals such as field sales and medical workers, says Mark Casey, director of marketing for Intel’s handheld computing division.

XScale was unveiled six months ago at Intel’s Developer Conference. Since then, Intel has worked with OEM partners such as Compaq to roll out product this year, says Casey.

“Prices [of devices with XScale] will start at the higher end, but will become integrated into the devices in time–leading to a reduction in costs,” he says.

Currently, some handheld-device makers use the StrongARM processor, which Intel licenses from Korean microprocessor maker ARM. Palm licenses Motorola’s Dragonball chip for use in its PDA devices.

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