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Kenwood, better known for its ghetto-blasting in-car hi-fi rigs, is making a dash for the hi-tech world of mobile comms and multimedia, courtesy of Symbian and Intel.

The Japanese consumer electronics company said today it has joined the Symbian alliance, and will use the operating system developer's 32-bit Epoc 32 platform as the basis for a family of PDA-cum-cellular handsets.

The smartphones will initially be aimed at the Japanese market, but won't ship until 2002 when they can take advantage of next-generation W-CDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) cellular networks, Kenwood said.

Kenwood's Symbian chums include Motorola, Nokia, Ericsson, Psion and Matsushita, but its key partner here is Intel. Kenwood's phones will be based on Intel's ARM-derived XScale embedded CPU, and since Chipzilla is handling the XScale port of Epoc, Kenwood is probably getting processor and software platform as a job lot from the chip company.

Kenwood's focus will be on mobile multimedia, leveraging the company's "extensive experience in the consumer market", according to Kenwood Director General Manager Masakazu Kaneko. Its products will be going up against smartphones from Symbian's mobile-phone making founders plus Sony and Sanyo. ®

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