PDA’s Going Wi-Fi By Year’s End

SyChip, a Bell Labs spin off into the wireless arena, said earlier this
week it’s almost done making a card that puts Wi-Fi on PDA, digital wireless
phones and ultra-thin laptops.

It’s one of the first 802.11b (also called Wi-Fi) ventures into the world
of super-small personal organizers and phones equipped with secure digital
(SD) adapters, a form factor uses generally used for removable
memory. Though many manufacturers are rushing to get a 802.11b SD card out
to the masses, officials believe they are the first to actually do so.

The wireless LAN (WLAN) 6060 network interface card (NIC) isn’t expected to
be available to the public until next year; in fact, the card won’t be
ready for evaluation by anyone until the end of 2002. The likely reason
for an early announcement is the reluctance many PDA and cell phone makers
have with 802.11-powered cards, which use up an unacceptable level of
battery power.

These days, most PDAs and phones connect wirelessly through a
Bluetooth-enabled card. Bluetooth, which has only an effective range of
6-10 feet compared to 802.11b’s 300 feet, is much more friendly to
battery-powered devices. 802.11, with its higher throughput, translates to
more processing power.

There are a number of chipset makers rushing to get Wi-Fi out to the public
with battery-saving designs, IceFyre Semiconductor and Atsana Semiconductor
are two of them. Both
companies acknowledge the difficulties
getting the Institute of
Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) standard usable.

According to officials at IceFyre, Wi-Fi cards take up to 10 percent from a
laptop’s battery and even more from PDAs; Atsana technicians say the
processing power needed to encode graphics in PDAs not only drains the
device’s juice but makes it literally too hot to handle.

SyChip officials say their Wi-Fi card is ideal for devices with limited
battery power in them, with chip enhancements that reduce the “parasitics
associated with the package architecture and reduction of the electrical
distance between” the integrated circuits (ICs).

To do that, the company didn’t go with either Atsana or IceFyre, but signed
on Intersil Corp. to provide its PRISM 3 chip set
design. SyChip believes the company’s zero intermediate frequency (ZIF)
architecture will eliminate many of the problems associated with Wi-Fi
cards for handhelds.

Intersil’s product documentation says its ZIF architecture eliminates the
need for first mixer, oscillator and intermediate frequencies found in most
cards (cutting down on size and power costs), without sacrificing performance.

The SyChip 6060 WLAN NIC supports Windows 2000/XP/CE (2.11 and up) and Palm
OS 4 and higher. The card measures 1.25 x 1 x 1 inches.

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