Intel applies long memory to smart phones

XScale calls

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Intel Corp yesterday launched an assault on the mobile handset market with the introduction of two new chips featuring high-capacity Flash memory technology.

Intel described its new XScale smart phone chips as "an advancement that will help significantly improve cell phone battery life, performance and storage capacity" while also offering considerable space savings over existing XScale designs, which principally target PDAs rather than more tightly packed handsets.

The PXA261 and PXA262 are both based around Intel's XScale mobile chip architecture, with the former clocked at 200MHz and the latter available in both 200MHz and 300MHz forms. But perhaps more importantly, both chips combine the application processor with the latest iteration of Intel's StrataFlash memory in a single package.

The new 1.8 volt StrataFlash uses Intel's 0.13 micron process for the first time, and is available in 64, 128 and 256Mb densities. Intel has also used a technique it calls "stacked chip scale packaging" to allow up to four StrataFlash devices to be stacked on each XScale core, providing a possible memory density of 1Gb, which is more than adequate for most current applications.

Despite their complexity, Intel's use of multi-level cell technology, which doubles the amount of data in each memory cell, guarantees compact proportions, an important factor in building handsets. The company claims a 56% space saving for the PXA261 with 128Mb of memory over standalone products, while the PXA262 with 256Mb of memory is said to be 65% the size of its rivals.

Intel was unable to announce customers for the new designs. However, Gordon Graylish, Intel's director communications business organization, EMEA, said that the company had been "very pleased" with the reception so far.

Whether Intel can force its way into the products of major handset vendors such as Nokia, Sony Ericsson, and most unlikely of all, Motorola, remains to be seen. However, the company could still make considerable headway selling its technology to south-east Asian electronics giants such as long-term partners Toshiba, Matsushita (Panasonic), Fujitsu and NEC, or to operators via original design manufacturers (ODMs) such as High Tech Computer (HTC) Corp.

Intel faces stiff competition, however, from rival smart phone/PDA chip maker Texas Instruments, which has already signed up the majority of these vendors as licensees of its rival OMAP architecture. It is unclear if those licensees, which include the aforementioned Nokia, Fujitsu, Matsushita and Sony Ericsson, will be willing to support the latest XScales in addition to TI chips.

OMAP differs from XScale by integrating the ARM-based application processor with market leading digital signal processor (DSP) technology. TI considers this integration beneficial in terms of multimedia performance while Intel prefers to keep the application processor separate from other components for ease of upgrading.

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