Intel Shows Off Converged PDA

Spotlighting its push into next-generation wireless phone technologies, Intel has previewed a prototype of a “converged” PDA which combines handheld computing features with a new, advanced mobile processor.

The PDA, code-named Carbando, was spotlighted by Paul Otellini, Intel’s president and chief operating officer, during a speech at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France.

As a harbinger of the next wave of personal-video-capable PDAs, Carbando boasts a multimedia accelerator chip to deliver what Intel called “near-DVD” performance.

Carbando is also billed as a “reference design,” which OEMs will use as the basis for their production models. OEM products are expected to hit the market in the second half of this year, Intel spokesman Bill Calder told

The Carbando preview served as warm-up for Otellini’s introduction of a broad new family of wireless chips from Intel. The first of those ICs is Bulverde, a next-generation version of Intel’s current XScale embedded processor, which powered the PDA.

Bulverde is only one member of a broader family of wireless processors Intel has dubbed Hermon.

The other Hermon ICs, which comprise all the technologies needed to pull together complete mobile devices, handle baseband and receiver functions. Baseband refers to the voice and data functions required by a mobile phone; a radio-frequency chipset must be added to a design to handle actual transmissions.

Europe was seen as an appropriate first venue for the Intel launch, since the new silicon is positioned as a technology enabler for phones which conform to the GSM mobile standard widely used in Europe. Although the GSM standard is beginning to be deployed by major wireless carriers in the United States, the competing CDMA standard still dominates in the U.S.

Intel plans to push the technology to market by linking up with major mobile operator Orange SA, which runs networks in France and England. “We are going to work with Orange on a next-generation phone,” Calder said. However, he noted that the companies haven’t yet begun detailed work on the design.

Intel will also move Bulverde and Hermon into domestic applications. Calder confirmed that Intel is talking to a broad collection of mobile-phone manufacturers about potential use of the new Intel chips. However, Calder declined to name the vendors. “As the building-block supplier to the main OEMs, it’s their call on when to announce products,” he said.

But it is clear that Motorola and Samsung — two mobile manufacturers with which Intel already has links — are on that list. “In the United States, we do have a deal with Samsung, which used Intel’s [existing] Xscale processor in a recent phone,” Calder added. “Motorola also has one.”

Intel’s Otellini emphasized the company’s plans to begin shipping silicon that supports WiMax, also known as the 802.16d standard, by the second half of this year.

WiMax boasts huge bandwidth and a range increase over standard WiFi . It also supports data speeds of up to 70 Mbps (compared to 11 mps for 802.11b) at a range of 30 miles.

Indeed, he noted that a wireless networking component is part of the Hermon strategy. “It will be a requirement that Wi-Fi, WiMax and 3G coexist, and that coexistence is going to enable a host of exciting new applications,” Otellini said in a statement.

The news from Intel arrives amid this week’s 3GSM show , which has been the venue for a passel of wireless announcements and mobile-phone disclosures.

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