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Software modems planned

Motorola begins an initiative to develop software-based modems that cost a fraction of today's hardware offerings.

Motorola (MOT) on Monday announced an initiative to develop software-based modems that cost a fraction of today's hardware offerings.

The modems are part of a series of Motorola plans expected this year. The so-called software modems use a host processor, such as the Pentium, rather than a dedicated modem chip, thereby decreasing the hardware requirements for a PC that offers modem connectivity, according to the company.

The price of such a modem could be less than $20, according to one source familiar with the announcement, compared to more than $100 for most 28.8-kbps modems available today.

"Host-based processing will enable a wide range of compelling value-added features in personal communications. Users will eventually be able to get full multimedia capabilities, from digital audio to videoconferencing, from one processor," said Richard Leslie, vice president at Motorola's Information Systems Group.

The modem is also part of an attempt to pin communication standards to open software architectures. "Motorola recognizes that a new approach to standards is required to accelerate the adoption of software-based communication technologies," the company said.

Motorola will work toward creating "strategic partnerships" and alliances to define architectures for high-performance, cost-effective communications products.

The announcement also mirrors Intel's recent attempts to move more graphics processing from dedicated chips to the main PC processor--in other words, the Pentium. These efforts include the MMX multimedia technology that will be built into Pentium chips next year and a new Intel-promoted design model for processing multimedia-intensive online applications.