Intel eases XScale into Symbian phones

More horsepower

Intel is to provide hardware kits to help Symbian licencees produce 2.5G and 3G phones using the former's XScale processor.

The XScale (nee StrongARM) chip underpins Chipzilla's PCA mobile platform, and since Intel wants to commoditise the handset business the news is no great surprise. A similar helping hand is likely to be extended to Palm and Microsoft, Intel told us yesterday, but Symbian is that much further down the track, having shipped its 2.5G software platform to manufacturers in February.

The majority of Symbian licencees are the big Japanese consumer electronics giants: Kenwood, Sony, Matsushita and Sanyo, which want to produce 'media phones' which are entertainment devices with phone and packet data capabilities. These kinds of gadgets could benefit from the extra horsepower of XScale, and Kenwood has already committed to XScale its Symbian media phones.

As we sketched out last week, much of the success of PCA - in terms of shipping large volumes - depends on the handset manufacturers opting for more capable and more expensive devices, rather than the cheap-and-cheerful 'recession' option: sticking limited media playback and Java into their existing proprietary OSes. If they do, then current ARM variants will most likely suffice, leaving XScale to compete in the much smaller PDA market.

XScale does not ship until September, but both Microsoft and Symbian have had their software running on StrongARM for several years. Palm recently opted to include XScale as reference silicon for future products.

More XScale details are expected next week at the Intel Developer Forum in San Jose, when Ron Smith, who looks after the PCA work, gives his keynote on what's called 'Quiet Day': Wednesday.

A keynote on Quiet Day? We asked if this meant Ron would have to whisper his oration, or deliver it with the PA turned off. The answer's no. ®

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