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Chip firms team up for mobile standards

Nokia and chip industry players Texas Instruments, ARM and STMicroelectronics form an alliance to promote standard ways for the silicon chips inside cell phones to work together.

Mobile
Cell phone maker Nokia and chip industry players Texas Instruments, ARM Holdings and STMicroelectronics have formed an alliance to promote standard ways for the silicon chips inside cell phones to work together.

The wireless industry has a long history of forming such alliances, which aim to shorten development time and reduce production costs. But the Mobile Industry Processor Interface Alliance, announced Tuesday, is the first to address the microprocessors inside handhelds, which are now doing more complicated tasks such as sending and receiving photos, said Tom Vial, a marketing manager at TI.

Chips used in handhelds are designed to interact with each other in different ways. That creates problems for manufacturers that fit the pieces together and for the creators of cell phone software programs, said Richard Chesson, director of marketing at STMicroelectronics.

"You can get it all to work, but it's needlessly complex because of the diversity of hardware and software interfaces," he said.

There are just four members of the alliance so far, but Chesson said Alliance representatives are in talks with "dozens" of major wireless industry players. Perhaps the most important is No. 2 cell phone chip provider Qualcomm, IDC research manager Allen Leibovitch said. The alliance already includes No. 1 cell phone chipmaker TI and No. 3 STMicroelectronics.

It might be a tough sell, Leibovitch said, especially because Qualcomm is battling TI in a recently filed patent-related lawsuit. Qualcomm already includes a lot of these functions in its own processors, he said. "They may or may not be motivated to join this," he added.

Chesson said the alliance is still at an early stage and for now is focusing mainly on creating a structure of working groups and other essentials.

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