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Intel lands StrongARM win with HP

Intel gets its first major customer for the low-cost, low-powered chip. HP will use it in its next generation of handhelds.

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Intel landed its first major customer for its StrongARM chip when Hewlett-Packard announced today that it would use the low-cost, low-powered chip in its next generation of handheld PCs.

The announcement likely marks the beginning of the commercial resurgence of the StrongARM processor. Intel acquired the rights to build the StrongARM chip, which is rooted in a basic chip design from Advanced Risc Machines, from Digital last year.

"This is a pretty good win for StrongARM," said Jim Turley, embedded processor analyst for MicroDesign Resources, who added that the design has enjoyed popularity among designers.

The chip's market momentum will likely continue to build as well, he added. Intel has committed to new generations of the chip every two years.

While well-regarded, the momentum for the chip architecture seemed to fade after the Digital deal because Intel's plans for the chip were largely uncertain. However, at last month's Intel Developer Conference, Intel said it would begin to market the chip for a wide variety of devices, including handheld computers.

HP will use the StrongARM 1100 and a new companion chip called the StrongARM 1101 in its Windows CE "Jupiter"-based handheld computers, said sources at HP. These new designs running version 2.1 of the Windows CE operating system will appear this fall.

The StrongARM 1100 runs at 190 MHz, faster than the 75-MHz processors HP currently uses in its top-of-the-line handheld computers. The StrongARM 1101 companion chip, meanwhile, is used for managing the Universal Serial Bus connection as well as other functions.

Jupiter is the latest flavor of Microsoft's Windows CE. Jupiter devices are generally larger than current handheld computers and contain larger screens, but are smaller than laptops. Microsoft will provide more details about Jupiter next week at its developer conference.

HP, Compaq, and others are expected to also detail their plans for Jupiter devices in the near future as well. In addition, another major manufacturer is expected to announce a StrongARM-based handheld computer. Intel has landed at least two handheld deals with the StrongARM, according to sources.

"We are very pleased with the advantages that StrongARM technology brings to the next level of handheld computing," said Kheng-Joo Khaw, general manager of HP's Asia-Pacific personal computing division.

An Intel spokeswoman said that this is the first major design win for Intel in the handheld space.

Intel has not played a significant part in the device space, say analysts, because chips based around the company's established x86 PC architecture consume a fairly substantial amount of energy and cost more than competitors. StrongARM chips, by contrast, consume little power and are relatively cheap. The StrongARM 1100 sells for $33 in volume while the StrongARM 1101 companion chip sells for $21.

The StrongARM has been used in the past in the discontinued MessagePad from Apple.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network, publisher of News.com.

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