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Intel puts 'Britney Spears silicon' in new X-Scale chip

Mr. Bulverde at the door

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Intel made a major bid today to boost its cell phone chip business with the release of a new Xscale processor - code-named Bulverde.

Bulverde was first discussed in late 2003 as Intel's answer to a graphics rich, more demanding mobile world. The processor formally known by the catchy PXA27x name includes technology designed to increase the battery life of mobile devices, allow for DVD-quality video and tap into a wide range of wireless broadband access. The chip has started shipping to cell phone and handheld makers now and should be generally available to consumers "later on this year," said Sean Maloney, the head of Intel's Communications Group, at the Intel Developer Forum being held this week in Taipei.

"This is a chip designed for beautiful 3-D graphics on handhelds and PDAs," Maloney said, during a Monday keynote.

Intel is hoping that interest in Bulverde's bells and whistles can revive its flagging communications business. The mobile device processor market is one of the few that Intel has failed to dominate, losing hundreds of millions of dollars over the past year. Texas Instruments has managed to fend off Chipzilla in the mobile space.

With Bulverde, Intel has used a strategy that helped make it successful on the desktop and in notebook computers. The company has combined a number of typically separate components into a single product.

The new chip uses Intel's SpeedStep technology for managing voltage and frequency changes. This is similar technology to that used in Intel's notebook processors to prolong the battery life of devices.

Intel has also bundled in the MMX multimedia instructions found in its Pentium processors. These are meant to help out graphics and audio performance. In addition, the new processor can support up to four megapixel cameras.

The power and multimedia perks come along with improved security tools for the secure storage of private information and cryptographic keys.

The PXA27x will be sold with clock speeds ranging from 312MHz to 624MHz and as much as 64MB of memory. The 312MHz chip is priced at $32 in 10,000 unit quantities.

Along with the new processor, Intel has started shipping the 2700G multimedia accelerator . Intel reckons this product will allow for high-quality video, including video conferencing, on phones and PDAs. It supports MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and Microsoft Windows Media Video9 video formats. The accelerator will be sold at $17 in 10,000 unit quantities. ®

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