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Intel unveils three-pronged strategy for appliance and embedded

Pentium, StrongARM and i960 all have roles to play

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Intel yesterday announced a three-pronged approach to the embedded and mobile device markets, pushing the StrongARM SA-1100, which is to be used in HP's next generation of hand-held machines, but also revving its i960 (which until StrongARM was the foundation of Intel's embedded operations), and taking embedded Pentium chips up to a 266MHz clock speed. Intel's embedded operations have been losing ground to rivals (or one-time rivals) like ARM, MIPS and Hitachi, but the restructured portfolio announced yesterday by Intel Computer Enhancement Group general manager Ron Smith promises tougher competition. StrongARM takes Intel into the handheld, PDA and smart phone arenas, and in the longer run gives Intel the option to use cheaper ARM implementations for classic low-cost embedded systems. But the company can still push i960 here for the moment, while embedded Pentium may ultimately have roles in areas where some form of Wintel compatibility is important. Embedded Pentium has in the past been seen by Intel as the big one it can use to face-off the low-cost Risc guys, but Wintel compatibility is (not least thanks to Intel's launch schedule) a moving target, and getting embedded Pentiums that are both fast enough and cheap enough is hard for the company. Smith reckons the growth in embedded is going to be in "handhelds, POS terminals, networking devices and others that connect, communicate, and control information in and around the information services environment." ARM-based handhelds and Wintel POS systems sound like runners (Microsoft is having some success in getting NT boxes at POS), but the $64,000 question is what Intel's going to propose using in its thin server appliance' strategy (Earlier story), and what OS the company will use. Sudden feverish efforts by Microsoft to develop Embedded NT may shed some light on this. The new Intel chips are the SA-1100, 166MHz and 266MHz MMX embedded Pentiums with new cheaper packaging and lower power consumption, and a 100MHz i960 VH Embedded-PCI processor. ® Click for more stories

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