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TI plans integrated chip for streamlined phone, PDA combo

Texas Instruments and Microsoft are teaming on technology that will make the combination of a cell phone and handheld computer a lot less clunky.

Texas Instruments and Microsoft are teaming on technology that will make the combination of a cell phone and handheld computer a lot less clunky.


Gartner analyst Abha Garg says the race is on to create a Weight Watchers version of the so-called smart phone, and it comes as no surprise that Microsoft intends to be thin at the finish.

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The companies plan to announce Wednesday that TI is developing a set of chips that reduce the amount of silicon required to build cell phone-personal digital assistant combinations based on Microsoft's "Stinger" operating system, a modified version of Windows CE 3.0 tailored for cell phones. By reducing the number of components, electronics makers will, ideally, be able to make such "smart phones" approximately the same size and weight as cell phones.

Phones using the TI chips and Microsoft operating system are likely to show up in Europe during the second half of next year, TI said. Such phones are designed to run on a next-generation network known as GPRS (General Packet Radio Switching) that carries data in packets, like the Internet, allowing for higher-speed traffic. U.S. carrier VoiceStream Wireless has also said it plans to develop a GPRS network in the United States next year.

Design-wise, the TI-Microsoft approach could be a major step forward, as current cell phones that combine PDAs are rather hefty and crude. Qualcomm came out with a combination of a Palm handheld and a cell phone as early as 1998, although the PDQ was heavy and expensive. A revamped version is on its way from Kyocera, while Palm and Motorola plan to release a jointly developed device in 2002 that marries a PDA and a cell phone in a more elegant way.

In the past, cell phone makers have had to start from scratch when trying to merge the two devices, Microsoft and TI executives said.

"It's just going to make it a lot easier for people who want to develop smart phones," said Mary Starman, product manager for Microsoft's mobile device unit.

The companies did not announce any cell phone makers that are going to use the new design, although marketing materials include a quote from second-tier Taiwanese cell phone maker Acer. Ericsson and Nokia have been using operating systems from Symbian.

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