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TI unveils a design called Wanda

Texas Instruments brings out a 3-in-1 design for mobile devices, which it said is the world's first to integrate cell phone networking, 802.11 and Bluetooth technologies.

NEW ORLEANS--Texas Instruments has introduced a new chipset and related design for making cell phones that can connect with three different kinds of wireless networks.

The design package, called Wanda, is meant to create a cell phone that TI said would connect to each of these technologies: a Wi-Fi hot spot, which uses the 802.11b standards; a cell phone network using GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications); and any device using the short-range wireless standard called Bluetooth. TI says it is the first to combine all three in a single design.

Many phone makers, including Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson, already make phones that can connect to a GSM network and use Bluetooth for wirelessly connecting to other devices at short range, said Nokia spokesman Keith Nowak.

But TI and other companies trying to shoehorn Wi-Fi into cell phones will likely run into some problems with battery life, Nowak said. Wi-Fi is a notorious power drain because it constantly forces a device to look for a network to log onto. Putting Wi-Fi into phones poses a significant challenge because the phones have an even shorter battery life than laptops, millions of which are used to connect to Wi-Fi networks, Nowak said.

A TI representative said the company is already working on power-saving techniques that will be incorporated into the Wanda chips.

The announcement was made Monday at the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association wireless conference taking place here.

The design, called Wanda--for Wireless Any Network Digital Assistant--combines TI's OMAP processors and wireless technologies with Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system. The software, made especially to work alongside Wanda chips, will be available soon through TI partner Accelent Systems.

A TI representative said he expected the first handsets using Wanda to appear by year's end. TI and three of its partners--National Datacomm, Chi-mei and Taiyo Yuden--are now selling the chips.