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Intel eyes gadgets with XScale chips

Signaling a more aggressive foray into the handheld and cell phone markets, the company is in Tokyo to debut processors using its XScale technology.

Signaling a more aggressive foray into the handheld and cell phone markets, Intel later Monday in Tokyo will debut processors using its XScale technology.

"We think these new products offer tremendous value to the cell phone area and help to deliver a whole new range of capabilities for wireless devices," said Mark Casey, director of marketing for Intel's handheld-computer division.

The new processors using XScale technology will be available in two different lines, the PXA250 and the PXA210. The PXA250 will come in speeds of 200MHz, 300MHz and 400MHz and will be aimed at the handheld market. Clock speeds for the PXA210 will be 133MHz and 200MHz--lower than clock speeds for Intel's StrongARM processors--and will be aimed at entry-level handhelds and cell phones.

Products with the new chips will be able to run software for devices fitted with StrongARM SA-1110 processors, including gadgets like Compaq Computer's iPaq and Hewlett-Packard's Jornada.

Both processors will come with 64KB of on-chip cache--allowing for improved performance--as well as integrated components such as a memory controller, an LCD (liquid-crystal display) controller and an expansion controller, which will reduce power consumption.

The PXA250 includes a power management application that better regulates the chip so that it only uses an appropriate amount of power for a certain activity.

Casey added that both chips are expected to use anywhere between a quarter to three-quarters less power than the StrongARM SA-1110.

The PXA250 will also come with support for Secure Digital and CompactFlash expansion technology. The PXA210 will support just Secure Digital cards.

The StrongARM SA-1110 comes with 24KB of on-chip cache and has a clock speed of 206MHz.

Casey estimated that devices using the PXA250 chip will likely cost in the range of $350 and up, while devices using the PXA210 chip will be between $200 and $350.

"As these two processors come out, it will be part of the demarcation of the high end and low end that we've been expecting in the market," IDC analyst Kevin Burden said. "What we've been seeing so far is a fat midrange, but more and more manufacturers are going to make consumers pick between the high end and the low end."

Intel has been competing with chipmakers Texas Instruments and Motorola for the handheld chip business.

Burden said that if Intel's battery claims prove to be accurate, it could give Intel a significant advantage in the handheld market.

Casey said that he expects devices using the StrongARM SA-1110 chip to continue to be released throughout the year, but that devices using the new chips will begin coming out by mid-year.