Motorola samples 200Mhz+ Palm chips

Fiery Dragonballs

Motorola is giving Palm loyalists a glimpse of high speed RISC processors running PalmOS at the PalmSource conference this week.

Having powered Palm for six years with its Dragonball processor - a cut down, low-power derivative of the 68000 series that powered the original Macintosh, Amiga and Atari [*] micros - Motorola is doing its best not to be tagged as yesterday's platform.

Eighteen months ago Motorola swallowed its pride and licensed the ARM instruction set, and Moto's Ed Valdez told us that the most recent Dragonball MX1 samples clock in at 207Mhz. Which is a stellar number for embedded RISC in the Palm world. A final production figure hasn't been made public yet, but it's likely to give Palm applications a significant performance fillip.

Palm has a choice of hardware platforms as it moves from the 68000 series Dragonball to ARM. Intel was showing its Xscale StrongARM derivative, Texas Instruments (the preferred platform for Palm's hardware division) was showing its ubiquitous OMAP platform, and Valdez says the i.250 platform distills down to 125 parts, compared to 300 - 350 parts for its rivals.

The i.250 keeps the Dragonball moniker, but is essentially a dual-core baseband chip (the 56621), with a separate chip for the radio interface. It's at the core of the Accompli 008 smartphone which we reviewed back in the summer. Despite the dominance of Texas Instruments' OMAP platform amongst the smartphone vendors,Valdez says Motorola has sold the platform into a major Tier One handset manufacturer. We suspect this to be Samsung, although neither party would confirm it.

Motorola is a Tier One phone vendor itself, so we asked if the MX1 would be powering Motorola's forthcoming Paragon smartphone, which exclusively told you about over the holidays. Ed wouldn't say. And since no one else has mentioned Paragon yet, we don't blame him. But you read it here first. ®

Bootnote: Doh! A strange brainstorm caused us to include Acorn in this list, instead of Atari ST. Of course as any fule kno, the Acorn used the 6502 processor for the BBC Micro and then its own Acorn RISC processor for the wonderful Archimedes. And later, the StrongARM for when the Acorn dropped the Archimedes name.

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