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ARM's new chip aims beyond cell phones

Chip designer announces new processor for wider digital-device market, moving it beyond portable-device niche.

ARM Holdings is moving beyond its portable-device niche and is looking to move into the broader digital-products category with a new family of chips.

ARM announced on Tuesday at its first ARM Developers' Conference in Santa Clara, Calif., the launch of its ARM Cortex M3 processor. The new design is meant for a broad array of devices from low- to high-end digital devices.

The M3 is the first in a larger family of Cortex chips that will come out during the next three years. It gives manufacturers a foundation on which to build, aiming to reduce product development costs and time. The A and R Series will round out the Cortex family of chips and will be for more specialized uses, the company said.

"The object is to get our technology at the heart of advanced digital products," said Warren East, chief executive of the Cambridge, England-based company.

ARM has been widely known for its expertise in chips for portable devices. The company licenses its designs and patents to chipmakers that, in turn, make or sell semiconductors under their own names.

Earlier Tuesday, the company reported strong third-quarter results that beat forecasts. The company predicted revenue growth for this year, despite a slowdown in the rest of the chip industry. Chief Financial Officer Tim Score attributed the third-quarter results to revenue growth and careful management of costs.

The M3 chip is available now, while development tools will be released to ARM customers by the third quarter of 2005. The M3 chips take up less silicon area than previous ARM designs, so devices can be physically smaller, according to the company.