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Intel plugs wireless center in Sweden

The Wireless Competence Center is set to focus on developing technologies and products enabling high-speed wireless Net access for computers, cell phones and handheld devices.

Intel is creating a research center in Stockholm, Sweden, aimed at furthering wireless technology as it continues to seek new revenue streams.

The chip giant today announced the Wireless Competence Center in the Swedish capital. The center will focus on developing technologies and products enabling high-speed wireless Internet access for desktop and notebook computers, as well as other devices such as cell phones and handheld computers.

Intel's latest push to support wireless development reflects the company's growing effort to diversify its business beyond the desktop PC, where it faces plunging prices and more competition then ever from AMD and others. The PC price wars have slowed or decimated traditional revenue streams at many high-tech companies.

The center will be located in Stockholm because of the enthusiasm for wireless technology in Europe and because of the proximity to the Swedish offices of Ericsson, Nokia, and Microsoft, among others, according to Rob Eckelmann, general manager for Intel Europe.

"It's the Silicon Valley of the Nordic world," he said. "It's the fastest mover in terms of cellular and wireless technology and adoption."

The center is intended as a resource for other Intel product groups, Eckelmann said. It has no specific project list but will instead work on developing silicon technology and standards, as well as wireless applications and infrastructure for Europe and Japan, where wireless technology is already popular. As standards become more widely adopted in the United States, Intel will do more promotion of wireless technology in domestic markets as well, Eckelmann said.

"Wireless is going to be one of the major new vehicles for Internet access. It's going to open up new usage models and opportunities," Eckelmann said, explaining that new mobile devices create an opportunity for Intel to sell more of its chips. "What we see happening is a range of opportunities for us, simply because we're going to see all kinds of devices using wireless access for the Net."

Eckelmann predicted that by 2002 there will be as many e-commerce transactions via the wireless Internet accessed from mobile phones, handheld, and notebook computers as there will be from wired computers.

"It's easy to jump to the conclusion that it's an either-or proposition between handsets and mobile PCs--the reality is that they're all very complementary," he said. "We've got to have standards which work across environments."

Yesterday, Intel received regulatory approval to move forward with its acquisition of DSP Communications for $1.6 billion.

With DSPC, Intel plans to develop and sell digital signal processors, chips that capture the digital impulses and translate them into audio for cell phones and other devices. Intel already sells flash memory and StrongARM microprocessors, two other key elements of wireless devices.