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Motorola boosts paging chip

The company's new chip, which combines paging technology with a processor, could open new markets.

    Motorola announced today a new chip that combines paging communications technology with a processor in a bid to boost its fortunes in the market for smart information appliances.

    The chip, called the MMC2080, combines a 32-bit processor with Motorola's "Flex" paging technology to enable PDAs (personal digital assistants), notebooks, desktop computers, and new high-end pagers to receive data from wireless transmitters.

    Users of devices such as the PalmPilot can add paging functions to their organizers through the use of additional hardware. The new chip would obviate the need for this hardware, enabling designers to offer smaller devices that use up to four times less power, said Kyle Harper, manager of wireless market development at Motorola.

    Harper says the chip could open up new markets in industrial devices as well, with new possibilities including smarter energy meters that can send readings out to a central location, or vending machines that tell distributors when inventory is running low in order to make delivery runs more efficient.

    Motorola's chips are already used in a wide range of embedded applications such as the PalmPilot PDA, and its Flex paging technology is already used by over 92 percent of the world's paging subscriber base, according to the Strategis Group research firm.

    The new chip won't be able to cure all of what ails Motorola, however. Its introduction comes at a time when the company's chip business has been in a funk due to weak demand and pricing pressures in the Asian markets.

    The company has been trying to boost its efforts in the chip business through a series of alliances. In July, the company struck an alliance with Advanced Micro Devices to produce chips using "copper" technology and access to flash memory technology. Motorola earlier in June inked a deal to codevelop digital signal processors with Lucent.

    Volume production of the MMC2080 is expected to begin in the first quarter of 1999, with pricing expected to be $9.88 in quantities of 10,000.