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Intel Woos With Wireless

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Intel Tuesday enticed developers to help them build the "digital home" of the future, one jam packed with wireless devices.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip making giant has been working hard to widen its reach beyond the desktop PC, which makes up some 80 percent of its revenue.

So the No. 1 chipmaker is turning the heat on developers to come up with the next "killer app."

To whet developer's appetites, Intel outlined its plan for several of its non-Pentium semiconductors including its Xscale processors, Wireless MMX, StrataFlash memory and yet-to-be-released Banias mobile platform.

"What people really want is the ability to have any device - be it a PC, a notebook, a PDA or a consumer electronics device such as a TV or a stereo - to interact with any other device, anytime, whether they're at home, in the office or on the go," said Intel Desktop Platforms Group vice president and co-general manager Louis Burns.

The company also stressed the impact of convergence on hardware and software for the wireless handheld market segment.

Part of challenge for developers has been a tradeoff between performance and battery life, which Intel addressed. But, the company said its work in multi-chip packaging technologies and advanced integration could help leapfrog the issue. Intel's "wireless Internet on a chip," capability where compute, communications and memory functions are placed on a single chip, is a leading example of this approach.

Burns also called for cooperation among PC and consumer electronics companies like Microsoft and Sony to help Intel with that computing vision.

Look Ma, No Wires
With the much-anticipated Banias mobile line of chips, Intel released some of the technical details of the platform. Due out in the first half of 2003 along with a related chipset code named Odem, Intel said Banias mixes a dual band wireless architecture that allows for both 802.11a and 802.11b wireless connectivity at 54Mbps and 11Mbps respectively. The company said the advances are backward compatible with existing WLANs. Intel said since it had completely redesigned Banias, it could lower power consumption with what it calls Advanced Branch Prediction, Micro-Op Fusion, a Power Optimized Processor System Bus and Dedicated Stack Manager.

Intel took out its PXA250 processor and StrataFlash memory to show how wireless handheld devices using current cellular networks now have the ability to access home PCs or corporate networks to view videos, pictures, or MP3 files stored on a PC or corporate server.

Intel also introduced the Intel 82540EP Gigabit Ethernet Controller, the first Gigabit Ethernet controller optimized for mobile designs. The controller is pin-compatible with Intel's latest 10/100 LAN on motherboard, which Intel said means that mobile PC manufacturers can provide 10 times the throughput without having to redesign their motherboards.

For the razzle-dazzle mobile set, Intel Tuesday padded its Intel StrataFlash and Intel XScale technology based product lines. The company debuted its new Intel XScale Microarchitecture Software Development Tools in beta. The kit includes a compiler, debuggers and simulators with Intel Wireless MMX technology support.

The chipsets were designed specifically as a wireless bridge from Intel's popular MXX architecture. But the new specs are more for the wireless and handheld market segments to help developers write advanced multimedia and security applications such as, 2D and 3D gaming, streaming MPEG4 video, wireless encryption/decryption, voice recognition and digital editing.

Helping along its StrataFlash memory line, Intel unveiled its first memory subsystem for Intel PCA with its latest versions of its Persistent Storage Manager (Intel PSM) and Flash Data Integrator (Intel FDI) software.

The new software is expected to let wireless applications run out of flash memory by a process called "execute-in-place." The effect actually helps use less power and protect against data loss.

The company said upwards of 100 million cellular devices with Intel StrataFlash memory have been shipped to date.