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Slimmer chips for common devices

Intel announces improvements for chips embedded in electronic equipment, from cash registers to network routers to handheld computers.

Intel announced improvements to several chips designed to be embedded in electronic equipment ranging from cash registers to computer network routers to handheld computers.

The modifications include a lower-profile Pentium processor that generates less heat and uses less power, said Joe Jensen, director of marketing for Intel's Embedded Microcomputer Division. These new low-power Pentiums run at 166 MHz and 266 MHz, but unlike their desktop cousins, they rise a mere 1.5 millimeters above the circuit board.

That lower profile is possible because the chip is soldered to the board using a technique called plastic ball grid array (PGBA), instead of fit into a relatively tall socket.

The new Pentium chips are expected to be used in equipment such as cash achines, corporate telephone networks, and point-of-sale devices--which used to be known as cash registers. Intel already sells Pentium chips for those kinds of devices, but there's a big demand for lower-profile chips, Jensen said.

Another new embedded processor improvement is a stripped-down version of the i960, an Intel reduced instruction set computing (RISC) chip.

The i960 has previously been used in products designed to ease the input/output (I/O) load on servers, packaged as the i960 RM and i960 RN. Now, however, Intel is selling the i960 VH, a less-expensive version designed for standalone network hardware such as switches, routers, and bridges, said Bill Rollender, product marketing manager for Intel's Connected PC Division.

The third--and newest--part of Intel's embedded processor product line is the StrongARM chip, which is targeted at compact, low-power devices running the Microsoft Windows CE operating system.

Intel is releasing StrongARM as a two-chip set, the 1100 and 1101.

Last week, Hewlett-Packard announced a handheld computer based on the StrongARM chip and running Windows CE version 2.1.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.