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Intel preps ‘Xbox in a phone’ XScale chip

'Bulverde' borrows Pentium's MMX, SpeedStep

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IDF Intel unveiled the next generation of XScale processor at its Developer Forum today, claiming the chip will enable 'Xbox in a phone' devices next year.

The processor, codenamed 'Bulverde', will be the first XScale to incorporate the MMX multimedia instructions that debuted on the Pentium platform in the 1990s. It will bring "mobile gaming into the 21st Century", boasted Kyle Fox, XScale Applications Manager, significantly improving 2D and 3D graphics and audio.

Intel has been keen to tout its efforts to help developers quickly compile apps from a single codebase to all of its key processor platforms, and implementing MMX will smooth that process further, particulary for PC games developers who want to take their titles to mobile platforms.

Another technology borrowed from the Pentium, this time the mobile side of the family, is the SpeedStep power conservation system. This throttles back the chip's operating frequency and core voltage on the fly according to processor load. It also adds three more low-power modes to those already supported by today's XScale echips.

Applied to Bulverde, Wireless SpeedStep can reduce operational power consumption by 50 per cent - and do so transparently to the user, claimed Intel wireless product chief Ron Smith.

Bulverde also integrates digicam and real-time video encoding. Dubbed QuickCapture, the technology uses MPEG 4 and leverages Wireless MMX. QuickCapture can take still images of up to four-megapixel resolution - what Intel calls Quick Shot mode - and record high-resolution video at 30fps (Quick Video mode). A Quick View mode reduces video quality and frame-rate in order to consumer less power and provide real-time previews, the company said.

"We're going to be able to see the same capability and the same resolution as we'd get in a video camera of today in a phone next year," said Smith told Intel Developer Forum attendees.

Bulverde is due to ship some time next year, with further details to be made public during the first half of 2004. ®

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