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Upstart's chips on wireless recharging

New technology from start-up MobileWise lets people recharge cell phones and other gadgets by setting them on a pad instead of plugging them in or dealing with a docking station.

New wireless technology from chipmaking start-up MobileWise lets people recharge notebooks, cell phones and other devices by setting them on a pad instead of plugging them in or dealing with a docking station.

The Los Altos, Calif.-based company has developed a chip that works with a gadget it calls the Wire-Free-Electricity Base, which resembles a desk blotter and can recharge several devices at once.

"My life had become all about plugging and unplugging and charge times," said Andy Goren, MobileWise's CEO. "There had to be a better way of delivering power."

For now, devices must be connected to an adapter that contains the MobileWise chip in order to be recharged on the base. But the company is working to get device makers to build the chip into future products and announced earlier in the week a deal with Acer that has the notebook and handheld maker doing just that.

MobileWise will stick to making the chips and will let manufacturing partners handle the base and adapters. Goren estimated bases would cost consumers between $100 and $150 and the adapters for notebooks and cell phones would cost less than $50. Adding the chips to notebooks should cost manufacturers less than $5, with the figure dropping to $2 for cell phones.

Goren said that because of the low cost of adding the chips to devices, manufacturers will adopt it faster than competing wireless-communications technology 802.11b. But Roger Kay, an analyst with research firm IDC, was skeptical. Kay said that adding cost to any device can be a tough sell, especially when manufacturers have other priorities, such as including security features.

MobileWise said Acer products featuring its chip would be available in the first half of 2003. Acer CTO Arif Maskatia sits on MobileWise's board of advisors.

Goren said the base can deliver over 240W, is safe from spills and does not emit radiation or cause radio interference.