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Handheld chipmaker takes on Intel, TI

MediaQ, a small chipmaker that creates graphics accelerators for PDAs and cell phones, is poised to launch a new chip that could challenge two of the industry's largest manufacturers.

MediaQ, a small chipmaker that creates graphics accelerators for handheld devices, is expected to launch a new chip next week that could challenge Texas Instruments and Intel.

The new processor, named Katana after the Japanese sword, has an ARM processor core, onboard memory, and a series of built-in hardware processing engines dedicated to jobs such as rendering graphics or processing video.

How applications perform--not necessarily the clock speed of a chip--is the key to winning customers, Manish Singh, MediaQ's vice president of marketing, said in an interview. "We want to debug the myth that you need high frequency" in a PDA (personal digital assistant).

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company hopes the Katana chip will compete with Intel's XScale processor in PDAs and TI's OMAP chip in cellular phones. Katana also could come up against Intel's PXA800F "Internet on a chip" processor.

MediaQ designed Katana to increase performance but cut down on energy consumption. The chip's hardware engines allow it to offload jobs such as video rendering from the processor core. This helps cut energy usage and improve battery life. Meanwhile, the dedicated engines perform jobs like rendering a digital photograph quickly, helping to improve the overall performance of a handheld.

While it won't be easy to take on giants Intel and TI, MediaQ is no stranger to working with PDA manufacturers. The chipmaker's current graphics chips are used in a number of different PDA models built by manufacturers including Hewlett-Packard, Sony and Toshiba, MediaQ said.

The company is expected to avoid the high end of the handheld market, ceding that territory to Intel and TI. Instead, it will likely target less-expensive devices such as PDAs priced between $249 and $349.

The Katana chip will come in several forms, the first of which is expected to ship next month. The company has not yet announced pricing for the new chips.