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ARM hands latest chip design to Intel, TI

The chip designer announces that it has licensed the next version of its processor architecture to Intel and Texas Instruments.

Chip designer ARM Holdings announced Monday that it has licensed the next version of its processor architecture to Intel and Texas Instruments.

As usual, England's ARM won't make any chips itself. Instead, ARM will license it new v6 architecture to companies such as TI and Intel that will use the processing engine in their chips.

Although handheld computers and cell phones using the new architecture are probably still several years away, ARM CEO Robin Saxby said the new design will help create new uses for cell phones, functions such as streaming video, interactive gaming and electronic commerce. Saxby noted that such advances are critical to recover the substantial investment that the wireless industry has made on the next generation of networks, known as 3G.

"Particularly in places like the U.K., operators paid large sums of money for the 3G licenses," Saxby said in a conference call Monday.

Although video on cell phones is already in its infancy, TI wireless executive Gilles Delfassy said architectures like the v6 are needed to make the quality sufficiently clear and the battery life long enough to make such uses gain widespread acceptance.

"It will make a lot of the things that people are talking about routine," Delfassy said.

ARM did not offer much in the way of specifics on the v6 architecture, but it did note improved support for splitting tasks among several chips and improved overall performance. ARM plans to offer more details on v6 at Instat/MDR's Microprocessor Forum in October.

The ARM core is at the heart of most of today's cell phones, although Saxby noted that most of the company's royalty revenue comes from its older ARM7 core, not the latest ARM9 core. Meanwhile, the most recent version of the overall ARM architecture was v5.

ARM has also made inroads into the handheld market, in large part because of Intel, whose StrongARM chip is based on ARM's core. Last year, Intel announced plans for a new generation of StrongARM, which it has renamed XScale.

Last week, Intel, TI and Motorola announced a deal with handheld giant Palm to develop ARM-based chips capable of running a future version of the Palm operating system.