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Intel parks chips, memory in cars

The chipmaker will announce a new program to help telematics developers get devices to market faster by offering product blueprints based on its chips and memory.

Intel is shifting its telematics efforts into high gear.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker plans to announce Thursday a new program to help telematics developers get devices to market faster by offering product blueprints based on its chips and memory. The emerging telematics market focuses on offering services for cars, such as wireless communications and navigation systems.

Intel has been helping large partners develop custom telematics products for the past five to seven years, but now the company will open its doors to other smaller developers.

The Intel Telematics Design Center program, which Intel will announce at a trade show in Germany, is aimed at cutting down development time for those already familiar with Intel's platforms, such as its Personal Internet Client Architecture for mobile devices. The chipmaker has made similar efforts in the past in hopes of finding new markets for its processors and memory.

"This could cut six to nine months off development time and get products to market faster," said Pat Kerrigan, Intel's director of telematics. "And that could save a considerable amount of expense, especially these days."

There will be no fee for developers who participate in the program, and Intel will offer tools based on its StrongARM and upcoming XScale processors. StrongARM processors are found in handheld devices, such as Compaq Computer's iPaq and Hewlett-Packard's Jornada. XScale processors are slated for use in future handhelds and smart phones.

"We're reusing parts from other areas of our business, so there isn't a lot of uniqueness here," Kerrigan said. This could mean that developers won't have to create completely new designs for telematics products and instead will only have to make slight tweaks to existing devices.

Thilo Koslowski, a Gartner analyst, said Intel is making a smart move.

"This is the right time to get in because (telematics) is an emerging market. All the automakers and network carriers are coming up with their solutions," Koslowski said.

In August, for example, DaimlerChrysler selected AT&T Wireless to provide voice and data services in its Chrysler cars in the United States. Meanwhile, Toyota's Lexus and Honda's Acura divisions have signed agreements for General Motors' OnStar telematics service.

For Intel, the new program makes entering the telematics market nearly a risk-free proposition.

"Intel doesn't have to maintain anything," Koslowski said. If the program catches on with developers, Intel will "have everyone using their tools and buying their chips and memory."