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Big chip for small products

ARM debuts a new low-cost RISC processor that will speed up applications running on digital TVs, handheld computers, and network computers.

Advanced RISC Machines today debuted a new low-cost RISC processor at the Hot Chips '96 conference in Palo Alto, California, which will speed up applications running on digital TVs, handheld computers, and Network Computers.

The architecture of the ARM810 chip has a high performance-to-size ratio and low power consumption. ARM claims that the chip can process instructions at the rate of 80 MIPS, a performance rate that approaches that of a 100-MHz Pentium chip, while using about one-twelfth the power.

Using less power means that the chip is appropriate for devices that are smaller or less complex than normal PCs. ARM's current chip, the ARM7 series, is used in digital cellular phones, wireless modems, Apple's Newton PDA, and is specified in Oracle's reference design for the Network Computer, its version of a stripped-down Internet box designed primarly for surfing at a maximum retail price of $500.

According to a spokesperson for VLSI, a chip manufacturer that has licensed the technology for production, the chip will be used for the same kinds of devices but will do everything faster for less money. "The design's advantages can help several product categories cross the chasm from basic capability to full consumer acceptance," the spokesperson said.

VLSI says they will be mass producing the ARM810 by November. The chip should find its way into consumer products by next summer.

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