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Intel dreams up new uses for XScale

The chip eventually will be at the heart of hardware that allows consumers to wirelessly access digital music and video stored on a PC and then play it on a stereo or TV.

LAS VEGAS--Intel's upcoming XScale chip eventually will be at the heart of hardware that allows consumers to wirelessly access digital music and video stored on a PC and then play it on stereos and TVs.

The company showed off the conceptual hardware Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show here. Intel isn't planning on manufacturing the devices itself. Instead, the company will license the design to other companies.

At the demonstration, the device was running on Intel's StrongARM processor. But the devices, expected to come out in 2003, will eventually run on the XScale chip, Intel marketing manager David Vogel said. The hardware will likely use the 802.11a standard for wireless connection.

"This concept is part of our Extended PC initiative that is meant to use consumer electronics devices to push PCs," Vogel said.

Vogel added that Intel is working with Microsoft so that the device can work with the Freestyle extension to the Windows XP operating system. Microsoft unveiled Freestyle on Monday at CES.

Freestyle includes applications for playing DVDs and digital music and for recording live television, allowing the PC to become an entertainment command center and a potential rival to digital video recorders from companies such as TiVo and Sonicblue.

That idea is similar to the platform that start-up Moxi Digital announced Monday at CES.

Intel added that it will launch XScale in the first quarter and that devices running the chip are due out in the first quarter as well. Manufacturers already have samples of XScale, according to Intel.

XScale is an enhanced version of the company's StrongARM processor, which is used primarily in handhelds, such as Compaq Computer's iPaq and Hewlett-Packard's Jornada.

XScale will also be used in handhelds and cell phones to enable wireless applications.

At Wednesday's event, Intel also demonstrated notebooks from Toshiba, Gateway and MicronPC running the upcoming Pentium 4-M mobile processor. An Intel representative said that the chips were running above 1.5GHz and that notebooks using the chip will be available this quarter. Sources have said that the chip will run at 1.6GHz and 1.7GHz.

The notebooks using Pentium 4-M processors were running various graphically intensive applications, such as games and digital photography programs.