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Palm looks to Intel for next CPU?

Rumour says so, but it sounds more like bargaining to us

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Rumours have resurfaced that Palm may be planning to use an Intel ARM-based processor over Motorola's new ARM chip, announced t'other week.

So, at any rate, says an item over at Palm Infocenter that cites no sources for the rumour, and doesn't offer much to back the claim up.

Nevertheless, the site reckons Palm may choose Intel's XScale processor, derived from the StrongARM technology it acquired off DEC some years back. That Palm is moving its OS to ARM is now well established. So too is Motorola's desire to retain Palm's business, hence its move, announced late last year, to license ARM's processor technology.

Both chips have something to commend themselves to Palm. Motorola has its integrated support for colour LCDs, USB and add-in systems like Sony's Memory Stick. That should win it Sony's support even if Palm looks elsewhere.

Intel's XScale offers few, if any, of these advantages, but does offer a potentially higher clock speed than the Motorola chip. The Dragonball MX1, as the ARM-based part will be called, maxes out at 200MHz. XScale can go higher, but certainly not up to its maximum speed of 1GHz, not on batteries, at any rate.

Palm's choice is likely to be based on finances rather than specs. On one side there's Motorola with has enjoyed a long relationship with Palm and wants to keep it, and on the other is Intel, which would probably cut Palm a very good deal to win its business. And since Compaq's iPaq is Intel-based, Palm might go that way to eliminate as much of a hardware differential between it and its main rival.

Palm may have no intention of going to Intel, but dropping a few hints here and there might well act to concentrate Motorola's mind on getting its ARM-based chip out quickly and at a cost favourable to Palm.

The ARM-based PalmOS is some way off yet, so Palm probably doesn't have to decide which processor partner to choose just yet. Expect it play both sides against each other in the meantime. however. ®

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Palm Infocenter: Palm going to pick Intel instead of Motorola

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